Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With the U.S. Open about a month and a
half away, defending champion Rory McIlroy is in an interesting spot when it
comes to expectations and pressure.
He won the tournament last year at Congressional Country Club to earn his
first major victory and washed out the bad taste of his 2011 Masters collapse,
a title that helped him become one of the game's elite. Since then, he has
earned two more titles and enjoyed a brief stint as the No. 1 player in the
world. The success has bred confidence.
On the other hand, because of all that success, more is expected of the
During a press conference Monday, McIlroy recognized both sides of that
He admitted that he perhaps did not manage those expectations very well
during this year's Masters, where he finished in a tie for 40th. He went into
Augusta as one of the favorites, having finished in the top five in every
prior event he played this year, and struggled mightily during the weekend to
fall out of contention.
But McIlroy seems to be relishing the chance to defend his U.S. Open title in
mid-June, and will head to Olympic Club in San Francisco without much of a
"If anything, [the 2011 win] gives me more confidence in myself that I can win
on the biggest stage in golf," he said. "Knowing that I've done it before
gives me confidence that I'll be able to do it again."
McIlroy earned that 2011 victory in authoritative fashion. He wasn't far
removed from his infamous performance at that year's Masters, when he carried
a four-shot lead into Sunday before carding an 80 and tying for 15th. But he
handled the pressure and won by eight shots at the U.S. Open.
This year, however, he said he doesn't feel the same kind of pressure.
"I feel like going into this year I don't really have anything to prove,"
McIlroy said. "I want to do well. I feel like I'm coming back to defend my
title as a more established player, I'm coming back as a major champion."
McIlroy has not played competitive golf since this year's Masters, after which
he took several weeks off in Europe. He returned to the United States last
week to do some fitness work, and played a practice round Monday in advance of
this weekend's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in North
The break allowed McIlroy to work on the parts of his game that failed him at
Augusta, and he said he feels more comfortable with how he's playing at the
McIlroy said he expects ball control to lead to success at the U.S. Open,
which he predicted will be a fast course. He said he will go to Olympic Club
the week before to familiarize himself with it.
But when he goes there, he'll go with excitement. The U.S. Open is a month and
a half away, but it's not looming.
"The thing about coming back this year to San Francisco," McIlroy said, "is
I'm just excited to come back as the defending champion and really looking
forward to that."
The Sports Network