Patience the key as McIlroy aims to end major drought

By Sports Desk January 24, 2022

Rory McIlroy believes playing patient golf will be the trick to succeeding once more in a major.

The former world number one is a four-time major winner, but the last of those victories came in 2014 at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy has enjoyed plenty of success since then, winning such as the Tour Championship twice, the Wells Fargo Championship twice, the DP World Tour Championship and the Players Championship.

While a fifth major success has eluded him, the 32-year-old is confident his chance will come again if he remains in the right mindset.

"I haven't won a major in the last seven years but I've basically won everything else," he told BBC Sport.

"I've won the Players Championship, I've won FedEx Cups, I've won Race to Dubai, I've won World Golf Championships, I've won national opens. You know, I've done a lot in the past seven years.

"That hasn't included a major championship but I've played good enough golf in those seven years to win one and I'm staying as patient as I possibly can and, as I say, just giving myself chances.

"I don't think there's anything I should or could do differently. I think the one thing that's held me back, especially in the majors over the last few years, is just getting off to slow starts.

"Opening up at Augusta with a 72 or a 71 and not shooting that 67 or 68 that puts you right in the thick of the tournament from the very start.

"I can't go into the first round of a tournament or on a Wednesday night under pressure to try and shoot a good score. I just have to go out there and let it happen.

"Historically when I've got myself up there early in a tournament I've been able to stay there and capitalise on that start."

McIlroy also believes the depth of quality rivals he faces has made the challenge of winning another major even greater.

"I think I haven't given myself enough chances," said the world number eight.

"I think if I'd have had more chances and realistic chances, just putting yourself in those positions, the more comfortable you are going to feel up there. 

"If you keep knocking on the door, one of those doors is going to open for you.

"I had a chance at Carnoustie in 2018, played the final group with Patrick Reed in 2018 at Augusta, tied for the lead with nine holes to go at the US Open last year at Torrey Pines.

"I've had a few chances and just haven't capitalised. I think players are getting better and better.

"When I last won back in 2014 I'd never heard of [Open champion] Collin Morikawa, I'd never heard of [world number one] Jon Rahm.

"A lot of these guys coming through are playing unbelievably good golf. I don't just have to beat five guys."

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    Jon Rahm said "everything was difficult" on day two at the US PGA Championship, but matters could hardly have been more different for Justin Thomas.

    Rahm, one of the pre-tournament favourites, endured a difficult opening round at Southern Hills Country Club but the Spaniard responded with a respectable, one under par 69 on Friday.

    That leaves the world number two on two over par, which should just see him sneak over the cut line. Former world number one Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, is unlikely to be so fortunate, having carded a second successive 73.

    Rahm conceded that he has found it tough going so far, though he was nevertheless happy with his second round.

    "I can't say I played bad. I gave myself a lot of chances," said Rahm, who balanced out two bogeys with three birdies.

    "I think the main thing yesterday was a couple of mistakes, just mental mistakes. There was three; one on eight, skulling that chip. Should have made something better than a six on 13 with a five-iron in my hands. And putting it on dry land on 17.

    "Those are three shots that I could have done better and I could be at one under right now, and that was just strictly mental.

    "Today I can't ask much more of myself. It was a good day, it was good golf. Just tough. And I played really good to show one under."

    One player thriving in the tough conditions in Oklahoma is Thomas, who took the lead off Rory McIlroy with another round of 67, replicating his score from Thursday.

    Thomas' sole major triumph so far came at the US PGA Championship in 2017, and the American looks well-placed to push on after heading into the clubhouse on six under through his two rounds, putting the pressure right back on overnight leader McIlroy, who bogeyed his second hole on Friday to drop two shots off the new leader.

    "Very pleased. I felt I played, although I played solid yesterday, I played really, really well today," said Thomas.

    "The conditions were obviously very difficult. I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could.

    "I felt we did a great job of that and am glad to have a good round to show for it."

    Thomas only slipped up once, on the 14th, but made four birdies, but the 29-year-old is wary not to get ahead of himself.

    "I like this golf course. I feel like I'm playing well," he continued. "We're halfway through so it's still a long way from home, but I'm very, very pleased with where everything is at and the frame of mind and state of mind that I'm in.

    "Just need to try to maintain that the best that I can and keep trying to play good golf."

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    Tiger Woods says Rory McIlroy "made it look very easy" after the Northern Irishman set the early pace on day one of the US PGA Championship.

    Seeking a first major in eight years, McIlroy carded five-under 65 to take a one-shot lead into the clubhouse at Southern Hills on Thursday.

    The 33-year-old, who won this event in 2012 and 2014, closed with a birdie on the final hole – his seventh of the day – to put himself in strong contention for another title.

    He teed off in a marquee group alongside Jordan Spieth and Woods, who carded 74 and 72 respectively, with the latter impressed by what he saw from McIlroy.

    "Obviously you can shoot something in the mid-60s, Rory proved that today," Woods told Sky Sports. "He made it look very easy. 

    "He had a couple of shots where he slipped away and he still shot five under and made it look very easy."

    McIlroy, who finished second in last month's Masters after shooting a record-equalling eight-under 64 on the final day, is not getting carried away just yet.

    "I came in here knowing that my game was in good shape," McIlroy said. "So it's just a matter of going out there and executing the shots that you know that you can.

    "Today I did that very well and I just need to try to replicate that tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and not get ahead of myself, but it was a great start."

    While McIlroy is in a strong position, Woods faces an uphill battle to make the cut, as he did at the Masters last month, but he is not giving up hope of a big recovery on Friday.

    "It can be done, I've witnessed it first-hand, so hopefully I can put together something similar tomorrow and get myself back in this tournament," he said.

    The 15-time major winner is competing in just his second tournament since sustaining serious leg and foot injuries in a car accident 15 months ago.

    Woods felt some discomfort towards the end of an erratic opening round, which ended with him nine strokes behind McIlroy.

    "Physically, I've felt better," he told Sky Sports. "Emotionally, I've actually felt better too. 

    "It was frustrating. I got off to a great start today, I did exactly what I needed to do starting out the round, but I did not keep it going.

    "I hit a lot of bad iron shots, put myself in a lot of bad spots and never really gave myself any birdie putts. 

    "I actually felt comfortable with the driver, I hit a lot of fairways with it, but from there it wasn't very good. Most of my bunker shots I hit were long, came out hotter than I thought. 

    "But predominately I just hit bad iron shots. That's not normally how I play, but today unfortunately that's kind of what it was."

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