Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Rory McIlroy: I plan to attack US Open course

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 12: 2011 US Open Golf Champion Rory McIlroy throws out the ceremonial first pitch of a Major League Baseball game between the Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on June 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy has decided that the best way to try to keep his US Open title - something only Curtis Strange has done in the past 61 years - is to attack.

McILROY TO ATTACK OLYMPIC DEFENCE

From Mark Garrod, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent, San Francisco

Rory McIlroy has decided that the best way to try to keep his US Open title - something only Curtis Strange has done in the past 61 years - is to attack.

Despite the Olympic Club in San Francisco being a far harder test than Congressional was a year ago the 23-year-old Northern Irishman plans to take it on.

"I didn't expect to be saying that before I got here - I thought there would be a lot more irons off tees," said McIlroy after practising with Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell and before heading off to the baseball to throw the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the San Francisco Giants v Houston Astros game.

"I reckon I'm going to use my driver eight or nine times. I'm coming in with the mindset that I'm going to attack the golf course and play aggressively when I can.

"Obviously you have to be smart, but you've got to take your chances around here. It gives you a few opportunities where you can make birdies.

"The rough is not as bad as maybe in previous years. You can get away with some tee shots. Really you just need to know your way around and know where you can miss it.

"People say it's fiddly, but I'm going to try to take the course on. If you make some bogeys you can hide them with a few red numbers (birdies)."

If not quite back to feeling supremely confident then McIlroy is certainly sounding more upbeat than he was after missing three successive cuts.

He added last week's event in Memphis to his schedule and was tied for the lead until going in the water and double-bogeying the final hole.

"It was a really good idea that I went there. I definitely feel more comfortable about my game than if I hadn't played.

"I'm feeling ready to go. The missed cuts were maybe what I needed - you've still got to work hard, put the time and effort in."

In the middle of the miserable run he had talked of possibly taking his eye off the ball and he admits it unsettled him.

"It's only natural you just start to question yourself and question your game a little bit, but I had a chance to win in Memphis and until the disappointing last few holes I felt like I played some really good golf," he said.

He plays the opening two rounds tomorrow and Friday with Westwood and Luke Donald - his fellow members of the world top three in other words.

"I like it. I think it really adds to the atmosphere," he said.

"Of course you're going to be up for it any way, but when you've got a little bit of attention on your group it focuses your mind a little bit and you feel like you want to be really prepared from the first hole."

There is also Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson as a three-ball and McIlroy commented: "That's going to be huge.

"If I was a golf fan I'd want to watch that group because I'm sure you'll see some fireworks."

Strange achieved his double in 1988 and 1989 - and before him it was Ben Hogan in 1951.

Woods has not done it in three attempts and said: "It's not easy - this is probably the hardest test that we play all year.

"We're playing different venues each and every year. It's not like Augusta National (permanent home of The Masters), so what Curtis did - and then contended again in '90 - is awfully impressive.

"It's such a big test and such a grind. Some venues fit your eye, some don't."

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