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If McIlroy trend continues, he'll win US Open at Pinehurst

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, right, and his caddie Harry Diamond prepare for a shot Tuesday during a practice round ahead of the US Open at Pinehurst (Gregory Shamus)
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, right, and his caddie Harry Diamond prepare for a shot Tuesday during a practice round ahead of the US Open at Pinehurst (Gregory Shamus)

Rory McIlroy has improved his finish at every US Open since 2019, and if he does that again this week at Pinehurst, he will take home his fifth major title.

World number three McIlroy, who has not won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship, has 20 top-10 major results since that decade-old triumph and is confident this could be his week.

"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," McIlroy said.

"I feel like all aspects of my game are in pretty good shape at the minute."

McIlroy, the 2011 US Open winner, missed the US Open cut three years in a row from 2016-2018 before changing his outlook on how he played an event known for dense rough, fast greens and difficult set-ups.

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

McIlroy has had five years of steady US Open improvement, finishing level ninth in 2019, level eighth in 2020, level seventh in 2021, level fifth in 2022 and second in 2023 at Los Angeles Country Club.

"I'd 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," McIlroy said.

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

He will play alongside top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and second-ranked Xander Schauffele in the first two rounds as he did at the Masters, only his US playing partners have each won a major since then.

"If they're playing well and I try to keep up with them, I guess it's a good thing," McIlroy said. "It's always exciting to be a part of a marquee group like that. It's cool to be part of these pairings.

"At this point, Scottie, Xander and myself are all experienced enough not to get caught up in it, just to go about our business, try to shoot a couple good scores to put ourselves in position going into the weekend."

Scheffler won his second Masters title in April and has five wins and 12 top-10 finishes in 13 US PGA Tour events this year.

Despite being arrested on Friday at the PGA on auto-related charges that were later dropped, world number one Scheffler finished eighth behind Schauffele.

"The only thing that took him from winning a golf tournament was going into a jail cell for an hour," McIlroy said of Scheffler.

"Undoubtedly the best player in the world at the minute by a long way. It's up to us to try to get to his level."

- Near the greens is key -

This week, that's going to require taming a course with domed greens, sandy waste areas and abundant wiregrass. Chips and putts could be an adventure on nearly any hole.

"It's generous off the tee in terms of the playing corridors you're asked to hit it into. Hit it outside of those, you can get yourself into trouble, this sandy waste area," McIlroy said.

"It's on and around the greens where I'm going to have to do the most work. Figuring out what I'm comfortable with on and around the greens, that will be the big key over the next 36 hours."

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