Rory McIlroy believes it is not only the United States Golf Association that is under intense pressure to rectify a woeful recent US Open record next week, but also the Irishman himself.
The 30-year-old has missed the cut in the past three editions of the American Major, a record that he is determined to improve.
“My recent showings in the US Open have been pathetic,” McIlroy said. “So that’s why I’ve changed it up this year by playing the week before.”
Cynics might believe that financial inducements or PGA Tour membership obligations have been influential in McIlroy playing his first RBS Canadian Open – the first round of which takes place today at Hamilton Golf Club in Ontario – but it should be noted that of the four Majors so far won by the Down man, he played the events immediately preceding on three occasions.
Factor into that the fact that the last time McIlroy competed the week before the US Open was in 2012, when he finished second, and it is eminently understandable why he is mixing it up as he looks to win his first Major in almost five years.
“Look at my record, I always seem to play better on my third week (in a row),” McIlroy said.
Last week the world No 4 missed the cut at the Memorial in Ohio and for that reason alone it is wise that he is teeing it up in Ontario, particularly as he missed the cut on the one and only US Open he has played at Pebble Beach, in 2010.
The early word from the famed layout on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula indicates that the rough is “borderline brutal”, with concerns building once again that the United States Golf Association is going too far with the set-up.
Controversy has engulfed the last five US Opens, with Phil Mickelson recently expanding the period of shame even further.
“I’ve played, what, 29 US Opens,” Mickelson said. “And 100 per cent of the time they have messed it up if it doesn’t rain.
“The rain is the governor – that’s the only governor they have. And if they don’t have a governor they don’t know how to control themselves.”
There is no rain forecast at Pebble Beach for the next fortnight.
McIlroy has been rather kinder, but only with an extremely ominous caveat.
“I think we should give (the USGA) the chance to redeem themselves,” he said.
“If they can’t redeem themselves at Pebble Beach, then there could be a problem.”
With ‘Golf Digest’, the much respected American magazine, reporting that some of the game’s elite players – including McIlroy – have considered a US Open boycott in the past, the hype is more tense than usual.
And this anticipation is only increased by the quality of field that has lined up against McIlroy this week, in the joint-fourth oldest top-flight tournament in existence.
“This isn’t just a preparation week,” McIlroy said. “This is a very prestigious tournament, one of the oldest in the world that I would dearly love to be able to add my name to. But I do know that if I play well here then I can go into next week confident my game is in shape for that test.
“The greens here are going to be very similar (to Pebble Beach), poa-type of grass.”
McIlroy is joined in Hamilton by three other members of the world’s top six. Justin Thomas (No 6) was a late entrant as he tries to recover from a wrist problem, while Dustin Johnson (2) could leapfrog Brooks Koepka as world No 1.
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