Managing expectation will be as important to Rory McIlroy in the coming months as the nuts and bolts of his golf game. There are shades of Tiger Woods in his prime surrounding the McIlroy buzz as he prepares for the US PGA Championship, following back-to-back wins in the Open Championship and WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He is No 1 in the world once again and in search of a hat-trick at a major he won by eight strokes in 2012.
Yet McIlroy has, smartly, moved to calm chat of his potential dominance. “Of course I have heard that and I’ve read that,” said the Northern Irishman. “Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions, jump on the bandwagon and jump on certain things.
“I’ve had a great run of golf and I’ve played well over the past few months. I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and become one of the dominant players in the game. I felt like I had the ability to do that and it’s just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel like I should be, which is near the top of the world rankings and competing in majors and winning
“I’m not necessarily sure you can call that an era or the start of an era but I’m just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible. People can say what they want to say, that’s fine. But I can’t read too much into it.”
Bookmakers have, with McIlroy generally priced as short as 5-1 to win here – odds not seen since Woods was in his prime. The Kentucky course, which rewards long and accurate driving, clearly suits the 25-year-old’s game.
McIlroy is also prone to winning in streaks. Since an alignment issue came to his attention at the Masters, he has putted considerably better than before. When placing all these aspects together, it is easy to see why such hype has been created.
“People can talk about my driving or how I’m swinging the club but mentally I just feel like I’m in a really good place and that’s what I’m really happy about,” McIlroy said. “What’s going through my head when I approach each shot is just that shot. That’s what I feel when I’m mentally at my best on the golf course. I’m staying in the present and that’s really why you are seeing the sort of golf that I have played over the last few weeks.
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint it to one particular thing that clicked in my game. I just feel like everything came together at the right time. Even during the first part of the year I felt like there was a lot of good golf in there but I was just making too many mistakes. I always felt that the mistakes are much easier to eradicate than if you’re not hitting the great shots or you’re not making the birdies.
“So it was about becoming a little better at maybe just getting rid of a few of those bad shots, not getting on some of these bogey runs that I was getting on at the start of the year. That definitely helped. And then your confidence grows.”
McIlroy awarded himself a day of rest to start the week, following his triumph at Akron on Sunday.
“Emotionally and mentally it’s more fatiguing after you win tournaments than it is physically,” McIlroy said. “So giving your brain and giving your head a day just to sort of rest is a good thing and then you get back into it. But you know, having all these tournaments sort of go back to back, it gives you less time to think about it. You just get straight back into it and you try to prepare the best you can. – © Guardian News & Media 2014