(Reuters) - One criticism of world number one Rory McIlroy is that he does not always grind out a decent score when the going gets tough, a theory that likely will be put to the test in next week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
With widespread reports indicating that the links-style course next to Puget Sound will penalize everyone with some unlucky breaks from apparently good golf shots, patience will not only be a virtue but an absolute necessity.
McIlroy’s best golf is clearly better than his rivals’ and he has not been world number one for more than 80 weeks by accident, but he has had a tendency during his career to throw in a few bad rounds and bad tournaments between dominating displays.
When his game starts going south, the Northern Irishman does not always manage to eke out a decent score.
Not only is the 26-year-old coming off missed cuts in his last two tournaments on the European Tour but his normal ball-flight is quite high, something that is not always ideal on exposed courses where the wind often blows.
That is the case the prosecution might offer on why McIlroy will not win at Chambers Bay, but he will likely start as the betting favorite for the second major of the season.
McIlroy drives the ball so well when he is on his game and has the ability to work it both ways off the tee so there is never a hole he cannot handle, whether it is a left-to-right dogleg or vice-versa.
Not only can he hit the knockdown shot when needed, but his normal shot does not launch into the stratosphere as much as some might imagine.
He ranks just 64th on the PGA Tour in launch angle with his driver, his ball leaving the tee, on average, at an angle of 11.62 per cent, more than two percent lower than the real high-ball hitters.
McIlroy already has four majors under his belt, two by wide margins, including his maiden major title by eight strokes at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
Conditions that week at Congressional, however, were unusually soft due to heavy rain and led to aggressive target golf -- something that probably will not be possible at Chambers Bay.
McIlroy scoffed recently at comments made by U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis that intensive reconnaissance -- more than just two practice rounds -- would be needed by anyone with a genuine desire to win at Chambers Bay, due to the many nuances of the course.
“What’s Mike Davis’ handicap?” said McIlroy, who does not plan any special preparation. He will, however, arrive at the venue a little earlier than usual, long enough, in his mind at least, to become acquainted with the layout.
”No one is going to go out there and play 10 practice rounds,“ McIlroy said. ”I‘m going to go up a little early, play a couple practice rounds the weekend before and then I’ll probably play another 18 holes.
”It’s a bit of an unknown to most people so you have to prepare but I think you can fall into the trap of trying to over-prepare. If you don’t go out there and execute the shots on the week, all that preparation doesn’t mean anything.
“So, I’d much rather have my game in good shape going in there and play practice rounds the way I usually would. I think that will do well for me.”
That ploy has done well for McIlroy in the past, but whether it will work next week is an open question that will only be answered over four days of competition -- or just two days if things really go awry.
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes