Chambers Bay is some 2,700 miles from Augusta, Ga., but to Rory McIlroy it feels like another galaxy.
“Much quieter. There was so much hype, so much attention,” McIlroy said. “Compared to Augusta, this feels so much different.”
That’s because unlike the Masters two months ago, McIlroy won’t tee it up at the 115th U.S. Open this week with a chance to win the career Grand Slam. This U.S. Open business is old stuff; he already owns one. Thing is, if he has designs on adding a second one, McIlroy will have to go about things differently than the first time around.
Back in 2011, McIlroy overwhelmed everyone at a water-logged pin cushion called Congressional Country Club, the place so saturated that the kid from Northern Ireland zeroed in at flagsticks all week. He led by six at the halfway point, by eight at 54 holes, and cruised to a record 16-under 268 to win by eight.
Four years later, soft and soggy has been replaced by firm and fast, a change of complexion that McIlroy said suits him. But it’s here in the story that McIlroy tosses some contradictions into the mix, because though he calls Chambers Bay “a pure links golf course,” in the next breath he offers that players would be well-served to hit it far, hit it high to attack elevated greens and realize “you don’t have to run the ball on the ground.”
Akin to saying it’s pure American football, but you don’t have to tackle.
Closer to the truth is this: Chambers Bay feels like a links but will not play like a links, because as McIlroy said, the ball needs to be played in the air because of the many elevated greens. And as one astute observer reminded, “they didn’t move millions of yards of dirt to build St. Andrews,” another reminder that we need to get away from calling Chambers Bay a links.
No offense, young Rory, but to give him his due, let’s focus on two things.
One, the last time we brought one of these big shows to a pure links, McIlroy dominated the field to win the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last summer.
Two, the last time we played one of these majors at a venue that felt like a links but didn’t play like a links, McIlroy overwhelmed the field to win the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
In other words, put aside all the course descriptions and all the various parameters and keep it simple. McIlroy is the best player in the world and feels deserving of that distinction. “I’ve won more majors than anyone else in (the last few years), and I want to go out every week and try to back that up and show that,” he said.
Forget that he missed the cut in each of his last two starts: the Irish Open and BMW PGA Championship. “I think that’s just the way I’m going to be,” he said.
Focus instead on his impressive wins at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and Wells Fargo Championship. “I’d rather in a six-tournament period have three wins and three missed-cuts than six top 10s. Volatility on golf is actually a good thing.”
As if to prove his point, McIlroy has missed the cut twice, won and been middle of the pack two other times in the last five U.S. Opens. Pure volatility, which makes this week at a question mark of a golf course even more interesting when it comes to McIlroy.
courtesy of Jim McCabe (Golfweek.com)