Rory McIlroy hopes ‘indifferent’ attitude can help him win more majors

A decade after winning his maiden major title in the US Open, Rory McIlroy arrives at Torrey Pines seeking the same “indifferent” attitude behind his breakthrough success.

McIlroy stormed to an eight-shot victory at Congressional in 2011, just two months after blowing a four-stroke lead in the Masters following a final round of 80 at Augusta National.

The Northern Irishman went on to win the US PGA Championship in 2012 and the Open and US PGA in 2014, but has not won a major since and is a combined 35 over par in the first round of golf’s four biggest tournaments since the start of 2015.

“Probably just putting a little too much pressure on myself, playing too carefully, being a little tentative. I think that sort of sums it up,” McIlroy said when asked to explain his first-round struggles.

Asked how to overcome that given his desire to win more majors, the 32-year-old added: “I guess by being indifferent. Not by not caring, but by not putting myself under pressure that I have to care, I guess is the right way to do it.

“If I went out and played this golf course any other week, you play free, and it’s just the same thing. You just have to be able to swing with that freedom, and that’s sort of what I’m trying to get back to.

“There’s no surprise that if I do have, say, not a great first day that I’m able to play well the rest of the tournament because that does free you up. It’s like, okay, well, the bad one’s out of the way, and now I can just sort of freewheel. It’s just a matter of freewheeling from the Thursday and not the Friday.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy (left) and his caddie Harry Diamond wave on the 18th green during a practice round for the US Open (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

“I think the ’11 US Open was only my third one, and I played okay at Bethpage in ’09, I missed the cut at Pebble in ’10. Yeah (there was) probably just a little less going on in my head, I guess, is the best way to describe it.

“Probably a little less cynical too. Sometimes I think you can sort of get into that mindset coming into US Opens.

“First time I laid my eyes on Congressional I thought I could see myself shooting scores out here. It’s the same as here. You hit fairways, you hit greens, and you can shoot good scores. It’s just a matter of getting into a little more of a positive mindset going into the tournament.

“I’m feeling good about where my game is. It’s about going out there and playing as free as I can and having that mentality that I had as a 22-year-old and just trying to get into that mindset.”

McIlroy ended a poor run of form with victory in the Wells Fargo Championship in May and said he had several productive sessions with coach Pete Cowen in Florida last week.

“The technical and mechanical parts of it are all there,” the former world number one added.

“It’s just a matter of going out in a US Open setting and just trusting what I’ve been doing in practice, and then that gets more into the mental side of things and just being really clear and really committed in what you’re trying to do and being as free on the course as I am on the range.

“That’s the big challenge, but in terms of where everything’s heading, it’s definitely in the right direction.”