Rory McIlroy hopes advice from Jack Nicklaus can boost US Open chances
If a golfer is going to seek advice on the winning of majors, it might as well come from the greatest champion of all. agrees with such sentiment. On the eve of the US Open at Pinehurst, he revealed he had taken counsel from Jack Nicklaus.
Having won a record 18 major titles, Nicklaus has plenty to offer. “I spent two hours with Jack last week in his office at Palm Beach,” McIlroy said. “We had a great conversation about everything: business, golf, brand, the whole lot. I got a lot from that.
“He said to me he was never afraid to change things in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well. If he felt like he wasn’t swinging well, he’d make a swing change right then and there. He had the mental strength to be able to do that and trust what he was doing.
“I had a great conversation with Jack and I feel very honoured that I’m able to call him up for advice if I need to. He has been very generous with his time. To have that at my disposal has to be an advantage in some way. Some of the things he said to me, I’m really thinking about going into this week. He was a great player and hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom he passed on to me might help this week.”
McIlroy’s detractors insist he cannot win here. The 25-year-old knows that only too well. Pinehurst’s redevelopment and searing North Carolina heat have left a firm and fast venue, which is more akin to an Open Championship than the recent playings of this event. And yet, it would seem somehow fitting if McIlroy’s increasingly mature approach to golf was rewarded at a course which has itself been subject to alteration.
“In the 72 holes I’m hopefully going to play here, I might go at five pins,” McIlroy explained. “This is going to be a test of patience. And I think I am better equipped for that than I was a few years ago.
“ was abnormal. It was wet. It was low scoring. I haven’t won a tournament whenever it’s been like this. That’s why I’m relishing the challenge. These are conditions that I haven’t won in before and I’d love to be able to prove to myself, and prove to other people, that I can win in different conditions. It’s a great opportunity to do that this week.”
Moreover, McIlroy is seeking to win a third career major, which would help diminish memories of his troubled 2013. “After the season I had in the majors last year, I was coming in this year and making them a real priority,” said McIlroy. “I want to get in contention. I want to feel the buzz of being there on the last day of majors and having a chance to win.”
McIlroy is in the midst of a self-imposed social media ban, a matter no doubt linked just as much to his recent decision to call off as professional dedication. He won’t even switch his telephone on this week. “Sometimes you become dependent on all this new technology so it’s nice to go back a bit,” McIlroy added. “I’ve just stuck my head right into golf and got on with it.
“I’m playing, practising, doing all that I can to be the best player that I can be. Of course you need a balance in your life where you are interested in other things. I’m no different than other 25-year-olds in the world. I want to go out and see my friends, have some fun.
“But I am really enjoying my golf at the minute and just making that the number one priority. That’s what I want to continue to do and I feel like, if I do that, it will give me a great chance to win some of these big tournaments coming up.”
McIlroy’s length from the tee is of clear advantage at Pinehurst. So, too, is his high ball flight. Both golfing traits are also displayed by Jason Day. Henrik Stenson, who is playing his way back into form, and Ian Poulter are others who are worthy of second glances here.
This tournament throws up statistical anomalies. , the two-time and current Masters champion, has recorded just one US Open round under par. Adam Scott, golf’s world No1, has never earned a top-10 finish in the second major of the year in 12 attempts.
“It’s hard to put a finger on a lot of it,” said Scott of his toils. “I’ve talked before about 10 years of playing pretty average by my own expectations in majors and trying to improve that the last few years. I think I have done a good job but maybe not quite as good at the US Open.
“However, I felt at Olympic Club two years ago, I played very well the last 60 holes or so, after a really bad start, and the confidence grew last year. Maybe it’s just coincidence that I haven’t had my best stuff at a US Open but I certainly feel like where my game’s at now, and over the past few years, I should be able to compete here.
“I’m trying to build a game that can play anywhere. So it’s a good week for me to kind of turn the corner and get in contention. I think this course sets up well for me.”
Others have made the same claim. Pinehurst proof, or otherwise, will now be forthcoming.