PINEHURST North Carolina (Reuters) - Having regained his love of golf after enduring a turbulent 2013 campaign on and off the course, Rory McIlroy has set his sights on winning at least two of the last three majors this year.
The Northern Irishman is in good form heading into this week’s U.S. Open, buoyed by his victory in the European Tour’s flagship BMW Championship last month, and hopes he can also take advantage of a few tips given to him by Jack Nicklaus.
“It’s definitely a reasonable goal,” world number six McIlroy told reporters on a hot and humid Wednesday at Pinehurst Resort about his target of clinching two major wins this season.
”You have to go back to probably Padraig Harrington in ‘08 to have a multiple major champion in a single year. It doesn’t happen that often.
“But I feel like my game is in a good enough place where I can definitely give myself a chance to do that. I’ve got three majors left this season and I do feel like my game is good enough to be able to contend in all of them.”
Irishman Harrington was the most recent multiple major winner in a single season, clinching the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008, and McIlroy believes he is capable of following suit based on the way his form has improved.
“My game has been feeling pretty good, and it was nice to get a win a few weeks ago in Europe,” said the 25-year-old from Holywood, who is already a double major champion.
”I felt like my game was trending ... it was building up to something like that. It was nice to see some of the hard work that I put in pay off. It’s been a much more consistent year for me, which has been great.
“That is what I was really looking forward to coming into this year. There have been flashes of very good golf this year, golf that I know is capable of winning tournaments like this. I just need to try to put it all together.”
McIlroy spectacularly won his first major title by eight shots at the 2011 U.S. Open played at Congressional, then added a second with a record eight-stroke victory in the 2012 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
He then struggled for most of last year after changing his equipment manufacturer in January and having to cope with legal distractions following a switch in his management company, but victory at the Australian Open in November sparked his revival.
“With the way I’ve been playing and how I feel my game is, I‘m one of the favourites coming in here,” said McIlroy, who has recorded six top-10s in nine starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, including a playoff loss at the Honda Classic in March.
”A lot of guys are playing really good golf at the minute ... Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and this golf course sets up really well for someone like Jason Day, who hits it long, hits it high and has a really sharp short game.
“There’s a lot of guys coming in here feeling like they have a great chance to win. I put myself in that category and hopefully I live up to that and I can give myself a chance coming down the stretch on Sunday.”
McIlroy, who broke up with tennis-playing fiancee Caroline Wozniacki last month, met with golfing great Nicklaus in Florida last week and hopes he can benefit at the U.S. Open from some of the advice passed on to him by the 18-time major champion.
“I spent two hours with Jack Nicklaus last week in his office in Palm Beach and had a great conversation about everything, business, golf, brand, the whole lot. I got a lot from that,” said McIlroy.
“Some of the things he said to me, I‘m really thinking about going into this week. He was a great U.S. Open player and hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue