US Open 2016

Rory feels winning on tough course will be extra special

Rory McIlroy blasting out of a bunker during practice at Oakmont on Tuesday. He feels his Major wins were at easier courses.
Rory McIlroy blasting out of a bunker during practice at Oakmont on Tuesday. He feels his Major wins were at easier courses. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

OAKMONT • The continuing pursuit of greatness means the venues of Rory McIlroy's successes will matter as much as the victories.

In what possibly represented an act of needless self-deprecation, the Northern Irishman said that winning the US Open at Oakmont this week may represent his finest achievement.

The 27-year-old conceded that his four Major championship victories have arrived in favourable circumstances. Oakmont, in contrast, provides one of the stiffest tests and only patience, precision and discipline will prevail.

"I'd be very proud if I won on a course like this," the world No. 3 said. "The Majors that I have won (one US Open, one British Open and two PGA Championships) have been soft, under par and more suited to my style of game.

"To be able to win on a course like this with the conditions the way they are, it would maybe be my biggest accomplishment in the game.

"It definitely would make me feel like a more complete player. I definitely feel like I'm a more disciplined and more experienced player than I was a couple years ago. I can see nothing but a benefit to that this week."

Further motivation for McIlroy is the chance to join an outstanding list of champions at Oakmont: Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan among them.

"I would expect the more established players in the game and the players who are near the top of the world rankings to do well because it is a course that can separate the players who are playing well from the players that are just slightly off their games," he said.

"If guys are playing well and they're confident, you'll maybe get it around in under par but the guys who are struggling, it will really magnify that weakness and you'll see a lot of high scores as well."

Understandably, betting favouritism lies with the world No. 1 Jason Day. The Australian laughed off any notion of Oakmont proving intimidating.

"This is one tournament that is very stressful and I feel like I thrive under stress," said Day, who broke through for his first Major title at last year's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and has won seven times in his last 18 starts.

"You have to have a good attitude regardless of what the situation is. You saw it last year at Chambers Bay with a lot of the professionals complaining about the greens. That just doesn't help.

"This year, we have got tough rough. The greens are tough. Practically the whole course is tough.

"You've just got to go with it, try to play your best. Sometimes attitude is huge."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Rory feels winning on tough course will be extra special'. Print Edition | Subscribe