Rory McIlroy ready for Major challenge at Erin Hills
Irishman says rib injury not a factor as he plays his third practice round in three days
Rory McIlroy in action during a practice round prior to the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisconsin. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
The billboards all around the players’ hospitality area feature familiar faces. DJ. Jordan. Rory. Jason. You get the drift.
But, for real, it was a case of the not-so-usual suspects in the choice of playing partners for Rory McIlroy as – playing the course for the third time in three days – he gave some up-and-coming players an insight into how he prepares for a Major championship.
So it was that two amateurs, Walker Lee and Cameron Champ, and fledgling professional Max Greyserman, an American who plays on the Canadian Tour and currently ranked 1,927th in the world, got to get up close and personal for a round amidst the fescues with the world number two and four-time Major champion.
McIlroy hasn’t had a scorecard in his hand since The Players Championship last month, in what has proven to be a disruptive playing schedule owing to his rib injury – first sustained in the South African Open in January – and then its recurrence at Sawgrass. He’s played six times, and missed six scheduled appearances.
“It’s feeling good. It’s been a frustrating year because it has been such a niggling injury. It sore of comes and goes. I feel like I have figured out what to do to have it not reoccur again, so it is about managing my practice schedule and not overdoing it and making sure I have plenty of energy,” said McIlroy.
But he’s back for this second Major of the year, and he likes what he sees here at Erin Hills.
Having arrived in Wisconsin on Friday, when he chose to only walk the course, McIlroy played Saturday, Sunday and again Monday.
“It’s definitely lived up to expectations,” said McIlroy, of a course that was only opened for play 11 years ago and which will be staging the US Open for the first time.
“For a US Open venue, it’s a little more generous than we have seen in the past. I think it will allow guys to be aggressive. You can hit a lot of drivers around here and you can be aggressive with your iron shots . . . . the shots off tees are really important, so if you can get really comfortable with those, they say a course is only blind once; so, once you’ve played it, you should know where to go,” said McIlroy of a layout that has 14 blind shots into greens, as the team of architects utilised the glacial deposits in their design.