Sports / Golf

McIlroy ready to defend US Open crown

By Agence France-Presse in San francisco (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-02 08:10

 McIlroy ready to defend US Open crown

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits a shot from a green-side bunker on the second hole during the second round of the 2012 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club last month. Jamie Squire / Agence France-Presse

McIlroy ready to defend US Open crown

History isn't in his favor, but World No 2 will try to tame extremely long San Francisco course next month

Rory McIlroy will defend his US Open title in June on a course he has never played in a major championship that has not surrendered a repeat crown to the same player since Curtis Strange in 1989.

McIlroy, dethroned as World No 1 on Monday by England's Luke Donald after his second two-week stay atop the rankings in as many months, said on Monday he is excited to see San Francisco's Olympic Club, where the 112th US Open tees off on June 14.

"I'll go up there the week before and familiarize myself with the place," McIlroy said. "From what I've heard, it's a really good setup. I'm excited to get up there and see what it's like.

"It's the toughest test that we face all year and I'm not sure why there hasn't been a repeat champion (in so long) but obviously I'm going to try my hardest to make that happen this year."

McIlroy won last year at Congressional Country Club near Washington in wet conditions with a 16-under par 268 total. The usual narrow fairways, dense rough and fast greens were muted somewhat by conditions.

"It was pretty wet and the course played pretty soft," McIlroy said. "The only thing that made the scores so low at Congressional last year was the fact that they just got so much rain beforehand and they were never able to dry the course out the way they would like.

"I'm expecting this year ... it will be fast and running. It won't necessarily be a long-ball hitter that will play well. You just really need to control your ball.

"If the weather permits this year in San Francisco, we'll get the golf course firm and fast and it will be tricky. You'll really have to think about where you need to land your ball on the fairways and on the greens, and I'm expecting it to be a really tough and tricky test this year."

The 7,170-yard, par-70 Olympic layout features a 16th hole that is a 670-yard par-5, the longest par-5 in US Open history. A long and difficult test is in order for whichever of the more than 9,000 entrants get to play.

"You just really have to mentally prepare yourself for the type of golf that you're going to have to play," McIlroy said.

"Something around even par will win most US Opens. Something around even par isn't going to be too far away. If you shoot four 70s, you will have a great chance."

The Northern Irish prodigy won his first major title only two months after squandering a golden opportunity to win the Masters, leading after each of the first three rounds and with nine holes to play only to falter on the back nine.

"I really wanted to put things right and make amends for what happened at Augusta, and obviously I was able to do that," McIlroy said.

"I feel like going in this year, I don't really have anything to prove. I feel like I'm coming back to defend my title as a more established player. I'm coming back as a major champion and maybe expectations are a little higher.

"If anything, it just gives me more confidence in myself knowing that I can win on the biggest stage in golf and knowing that I've done it before that will give me confidence to think that I'll be able to do it again."

McIlroy, 22, and 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, 36, were pre-Masters favorites who both struggled and ended up sharing 40th place at Augusta National.

"There was a lot of hype pre-Masters about it was a horse race or whatever and it was a two-horse race for 40th, so it wasn't our best week," McIlroy said.

"But hopefully you go into the next major and we both play a little bit better and maybe it would be great to get in contention on Sunday, and if he's there as well it would be great.

"If I'm being compared to him, I'm doing something right."

This week, McIlroy will play against Woods and others at the US PGA event in Quail Hollow at Charlotte, North Carolina.

"I took a couple weeks off back in Europe and spent some time with my girlfriend and I've come back to the states last week and did some really good work in Florida with my coach and really put in some good work," McIlroy said.

"I feel like I'm getting more comfortable and looking forward to getting back and playing some competitive golf this week."

(China Daily 05/02/2012 page23)

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