Rory McIlroy focuses on European record as fifth major remains elusive

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McIlroy has not added to his four major wins since the 2014 US PGA Championship.
Posted on
June 11, 2024
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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Rory McIlroy remains focused on becoming the most successful European player in history after a “come-to-Jesus” moment transformed his US Open record.

After winning his first major title at Congressional in 2011, McIlroy missed the cut in his title defence and failed to contend in the following three years before suffering a run of three straight early exits.

Since then however, the Northern Irishman has reeled off five straight top 10s, culminating in finishing second just a shot behind Wyndham Clark at Los Angeles Country Club last year.

“I feel like I really struggled at US Open set ups, 2016, ’17, ’18 in particular,” McIlroy said at Pinehurst, where he finished 23rd the last time the North Carolina venue staged the event.

“I sort of had a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment after that, tried to really figure out why that was. Then my performances from 2019 and after that have been really, really good.”

Asked what that revelation was, McIlroy added: “I would say embracing the difficult conditions, embracing the style of golf needed to contend at a US Open, embracing patience.

“Honestly, embracing what I would have called “boring” back in the day.

“Explosiveness isn’t going to win a US Open. It’s more methodically building your score over the course of four days and being okay with that. It’s more of a reframing of a mindset than anything else.”

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy tosses grass into the air to check the wind on the 18th tee during the first round of the Memorial golf tournament (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

A month after Martin Kaymer’s wire-to-wire victory in 2014, McIlroy also led from start to finish to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and then claimed a second US PGA title three weeks later at Valhalla.

That remains his last major title to date but the 35-year-old has not given up hope of surpassing the achievements of European greats Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo, who won five and six majors respectively.

“I’ve always said I still feel like being the most successful European in the game is within my reach,” McIlroy, who will play alongside Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele in the first two rounds, said.

“I’ve got obviously Seve and Nick Faldo to pass there in terms of major wins.

“I’m really proud of my body of work over the past 15 years and everything that I have achieved.

“Obviously getting my hands on a fifth major has taken quite a while, but I’m more confident than ever that I’m right there, that I’m as close as I’ve ever been.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve got a particular number of wins [as a target]. I want to win as many golf tournaments as I can, as many majors as I can.

“I think the only thing about trying to pick a number is that you’re setting yourself up for failure or disappointment.

“Tiger (Woods) wanted to surpass Jack (Nicklaus). It looks like he mightn’t get there, but are we going to call Tiger’s career a failure? Absolutely not. It’s arguably the best. He’s played the best golf anyone’s ever seen.

“If someone would have told me at 20 years old I’d be sitting here at 35 and this is the career I’ve had, I would not have believed them and I would have been ecstatic.

“Still have a good little bit of time, hopefully for the next 10 years. I still like to think I’ve got a good run ahead of me.

“Whatever those numbers are, whatever the totals add up to, I’ll accept that and feel like I’ve done pretty well for a little boy from Northern Ireland that dreamed of playing golf for a living one day.”

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