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Rory McIlroy's Changed Approach Paying Off at U.S. Open

Last Updated: July, 8 2024
Rory McIlroy's Changed Approach Paying Off at U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. - Rory McIlroy sits atop the leaderboard after the first round of the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, shooting a bogey-free 65. However, McIlroy's approach to this Open is vastly different than when he last won the national championship 13 years ago.


Back in 2011 at Congressional Country Club, McIlroy relied on his towering drives and bold iron play to dominate the week, winning by eight shots. But he acknowledges that setup played more like a PGA Championship than a true U.S. Open test.


Rory McIlroy plays a fairway iron to the 18th, where he made a birdie. Photograph: Mike Stewart/AP


Since then, McIlroy has come to understand what it takes to succeed at an Open run by the USGA. These championships demand creativity and finesse rather than brute strength. It's about coaxing the ball around the course on the ground rather than launching high flights.


McIlroy says his mindset started changing in 2019 at Pebble Beach. He realized if he wanted to win another Open, he needed to evolve his game. McIlroy's last five Open appearances have all resulted in top-10 finishes, a testament to his adapted style.


Now at Pinehurst, a classic American links-style course, McIlroy's new approach was on full display. Where he once relied on distance and risky shots, today's McIlroy emphasizes accuracy, avoiding trouble, and strategic iron play. He hit 15 of 18 greens and willingly took pars rather than gambling for more.


“I think I really changed my mindset around [U.S. Opens] in 2019, that one in Pebble, and then since then I’ve also started to enjoy this style of golf a lot more,” McIlroy said.


At age 34, still seeking his first major in eight years, McIlroy remains a work in progress. But if day one is any indication, his “secret U.S. Open vision” of precise, steady golf has him poised to end that drought on Sunday. With tougher tests still ahead, McIlroy will look to keep his composure and let elite ball-striking guide him towards long-awaited victory.



Read more: 2024 U.S. Open leaderboard: Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay share first-round lead at Pinehurst No. 2


How has Rory McIlroy's personal life affected his performance in recent tournaments


No doubt going through a divorce hasn't been easy for Rory off the course over the past year. Dealing with splitting from your wife is heavy emotional stuff that can weigh on your mind.


Having all that drama in his personal life contributed to some spotty play early last season. Heck, even making routine swings in practice is tougher when you've got a lot weighing on your mind.


But to his credit, Rory has shown he can compartmentalize pretty well when he's in tournament mode. His form stabilized as the year went on and he ended up with some solid major showings.


It probably helped that he had support from family and friends during a tough time. And staying active in his charity work no question provided a distraction from any personal problems.


While the media circus didn't make dealing with divorce any easier, Rory seems like he's learned to block out outside noise when the lights are on.


At the end of the day, he's one of the best ball-strikers around. So even on days when his head wasn't perfectly clear, Rory could rely on his talent to still compete. As long as he takes care of his mental game, I don't see his personal stuff derailing him long term.







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With a background in digital media and a passion for golf culture, Emily scours the internet and PGA/LPGA tour circuits for the most entertaining, shocking, and bizarre stories about professional golfers. She is skilled at curating viral golf content, from Instagram antics to tournament controversies, and turning them into shareable, humorous articles. Her readers appreciate her ability to find the fun and humor in the world of elite golf.

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