Rory McIlroy: Everything settled after transitional year
McIlroy doesn’t feel he needs to prove himself on return to favoured Quail Hollow course
Rory McIlroy believes he has nothing to prove heading into the US PGA at Quail Hollow. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty
Rory McIlroy insists he has nothing to prove as he looks to avoid a third year in succession without a major title by claiming a third US PGA Championship.
McIlroy won his second US PGA title and fourth major in 2014 but has failed to genuinely contend for another since, despite a share of fourth place in the Open Championship being his sixth top-10 finish.
However, the 28-year-old could hardly hope for a better venue than Quail Hollow to end his barren streak having won his first PGA Tour title here in 2010 and cruising to a seven-shot victory in 2015, which featured a course record of 61 in the third round.
That has seen McIlroy installed as a 7/1 favourite ahead of Open champion Jordan Spieth, who needs to win to become the youngest player — and just the sixth in history — to complete a career grand slam.
McIlroy was a 20/1 outsider for the Open after missing three cuts in his previous four starts, but followed his battling performance at Birkdale with a tie for fifth in last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
“I told you those odds wouldn’t last long,” McIlroy joked in his pre-tournament press conference.
“I think it’s partly to do with the upturn in form that I’ve had over the last few weeks and then my history on this golf course — a couple of wins, beaten in a play-off, a few other top 10s.
“Things are a bit different than they were a couple of weeks ago.”
McIlroy is the only member of the world’s top five without a victory in an injury-plagued season which has also seen him change equipment, get married and split from long-term caddie JP Fitzgerald.
But the former world number one believes everything is now in place to allow him to focus on winning another major title before his own attempt to complete a career grand slam in the Masters.
“I definitely don’t want to be in the mindset this week of wanting to make any type of statement or go out and prove myself,” McIlroy said. “I’m past that point.
“I’ve proven myself enough over the last nine years of my career. Obviously I wouldn’t have won as much as I would have liked this year, and there’s been a few components to that, injury-wise, changing equipment and stuff. It has been a bit of a transitional year.
“But I feel like everything’s settled. My health is pretty much where it needs to be so I just want to go out there and play well this week. It’s a golf course I’ve played well on before.
“But I’m definitely not going out there to try to prove anything to anyone. I just want to go out and play my game and hopefully that will be good enough.”
McIlroy said he would wait until the end of the week before assessing whether Fitzgerald’s replacement, his best man Harry Diamond, would get the job on a permanent basis after being “inundated” with applicants.
And for now the pair’s focus will be on plotting the perfect strategy at Quail Hollow, which has undergone a number of changes since hosting last year’s Wells Fargo Championship.
The opening hole has been made into a 524-yard par four by essentially combining the old first and second holes, with the new fourth and fifth holes created using land which previously formed the par-five fifth.
“It used to be you got through the first five holes here at one or two under par and that was a decent start,” McIlroy added. “Now you get through the first five holes at even par and that’s when the golf course starts to open up for you.
“I still feel like the golf course gives you plenty of chances. It’s going to play long this week with the weather. Obviously there’s been a lot of rain over the last couple of days.
“It will probably play a couple of strokes harder than it used to play, especially with the par going from a 72 to a 71. But I’m excited to be here.
“This has been a week I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I’m glad it’s here, and I’m glad I’m showing up for this week feeling like my game is in good shape, as well.”