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Rory McIlroy plans to get creative with major breakthrough ‘close’

USA TODAY
                                Rory McIlroy plays his fairway shot on the 10th fairway during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pinehurst No. 2 today.
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USA TODAY

Rory McIlroy plays his fairway shot on the 10th fairway during a practice round for the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pinehurst No. 2 today.

Rory McIlroy improved his finishing position each of the past five U.S. Opens culminating with a second place last year in Los Angeles when Wyndham Clark took home the trophy.

On a run of five consecutive top-10 finishes in the event, matched or exceeded only by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Xander Schauffele, McIlroy was runner-up to Clark at Los Angeles Country Club in the 2023 U.S. Open.

“I’m more confident than ever that I’m right there,” McIlroy said today of winning the U.S. Open for the first time since 2011, when he tamed Congressional for his first major victory by eight strokes.

In what he remarked was a second-shot golf course, McIlroy knows he has some work to do this week before teeing it up Thursday afternoon in the first round. He arrived in North Carolina this week with a rigid focus on the tournament ahead while chasing his fifth major — and first since 2014 — with confidence that he’s “as close as I’ve ever been.”

“It feels good. I’ve been on a pretty good run of U.S. Open performances over the last few years. Obviously had a close call at LACC last year, obviously Wyndham just beating me to the post there,” he said. “But I feel like I really struggled at U.S. Open setups, 2016, ‘17, ‘18 in particular. I sort of had a bit of a I guess come-to-Jesus moment after that, tried to really figure out why that was. Then my performances from 2019 and after that have been really, really good.”

Because he last played Pinehurst in 2014, McIlroy said his focus the next 24 hours is on mastering the greens and working different clubs – including low irons and fairway woods – into his approach options, one of the freelance requirements on-the-fly at the U.S. Open he learned to embrace.

“It’s course dependent. With this golf course, it’s on the greens. From what I remember in 2014 it’s obviously generous off the tee. Like most golf courses, it’s on and around the greens. I feel like all aspects of my game are in pretty good shape at the minute.”

McIlroy will play alongside Scottie Scheffler on Thursday after finishing tied for 22nd in the 2024 Masters and 12th at the PGA Championship.

At one point in his career, McIlroy considered U.S. Open-style courses to be boring as compared to the links style courses he grew up fighting in Ireland.

“A course like this demands a different skill set and also some creativity,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I’ve turned myself into a pretty proficient player around the greens. I’ve always been a pretty good chipper of the golf ball. Bunker play has been solid for most of my career. I feel like I’ve turned myself into a really good putter over the past sort of four or five years.”

McIlroy also announced today that he and his wife, Erica, reconciled and are no longer getting divorced. A legal motion was filed today to dismiss the divorce petition submitted last month in Florida, according to multiple media outlets.

In a statement issued to the Guardian newspaper of London, McIlroy wrote, “Over the past weeks, Erica and I have realised that our best future was as a family together. Thankfully, we have resolved our differences and look forward to a new beginning.”

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