Rory McIlroy has been one of the more outspoken critics of LIV Golf but the Northern Irishman said on Thursday his hot start to the U.S. Open was more about trying to end a major drought than sending some sort of message.
After claiming his 21st career PGA Tour win last week in Canada, McIlroy took a shot at Greg Norman, the frontman for the Saudi-funded LIV series, by saying he had “one more than someone else” and that it gave him extra incentive. But McIlroy, who has gone nearly eight years since winning the last of his four major titles, said he did not set out looking to make a statement with his clubs.
“Not really. It’s been eight years since I won a major, and I just want to get my hands on one again,” McIlroy said after a three-under-par 67 gave him a share of the early lead. While McIlroy enjoyed a solid start to the year’s third major, it was not all smooth sailing as he needed to dig deep to avoid falling apart at the fifth hole where his tee shot came to a rest in the tall grass on the lip of a bunker.
McIlroy chunked his next shot 14 yards into another bunker, causing him to twice slam his club into the sand in frustration, but he managed to save par. “You’re going to encounter things at a U.S. Open, whether they be lies or stuff like that, that you just don’t really encounter any other week,” said McIlroy.
“It’s hard not to get frustrated because I’m walking up there going like, just come back into the bunker. The thickest rough on the course is around the edges of the bunkers.” For McIlroy, who has long been plagued by slow starts in the majors, his solid opening followed a near flawless trip around Southern Hills at last month’s PGA Championship where he led after round one.
“You feel like you’re right in the tournament from the start of the week, which is nice,” McIlroy said. “I’m going into tomorrow with the mindset of let’s keep it going, rather than where is the cut line. “It’s certainly a different mindset when you get off to a good start, I’ve just got to keep it going.”
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