EVEN in its softer, more friendly state, Oakmont Country Club can still break a man’s spirit.
Just ask Rory McIlroy.
The four-time Major champion came out Friday morning for the resumption of his first round having slept on the thought that, while four over with five holes to play, he had chance to turn things around. He then proceeded to bogey his final three holes and post a disappointing seven-over 77 that left him 11 back of early leader Andrew Landry.
Afterward, McIlroy sounded a little bewildered about his game.
“There are scores out there to be had, but you really need to be in control of your golf game, and the last couple days I guess I wasn’t,” McIlroy said. “Honestly, I’ve been struggling with my swing, even the practice rounds a little bit. I just … I mean, I know what I’m doing but it’s hard to change it out there.”
McIlroy’s frustration could be seen most clearly in his bogey 5 on the 17th hole. Going for the green on the drivable par 4, his tee shot finished in the back greenside bunker. McIlroy then hit his second shot through the green into the front bunker affectionately called “Big Mouth.”
“I thought I played a great bunker shot,” McIlroy said of his second shot. “I didn’t land the ball more than three or four paces on the green. I didn’t even think about putting it in that other bunker.”
Truth be told, bunker play is probably the least of McIlroy’s worries right now. It’s the driver that is giving him the most fits, physically and mentally. Or maybe it’s his irons? Even McIlroy can’t really decide.
“I think I hit five fairways and eight green, which obviously isn’t going to do anything,” McIlroy said.
With softer conditions than what he saw at Oakmont during practice rounds early in the week—and the need to post a low number in his second round to have any chance at getting back in contention—McIlroy said his strategy is likely to change.
“I might just go out there and hit a lot of drivers and try to be as aggressive as I can,” McIlroy said.
The good news is that he’ll have a full day to work things out as his second round will not begin until Saturday morning. It sounds like he’ll need it.
“I might come out here later this afternoon and work on it a little bit and see if I can just hit it a little bit better,” McIlroy said. “I don’t think to swing perfect, but I just need to be able to play one shot and know that I know where it’s going to start and I know where it’s going to finish and just try to go from there.
“For me the toughest thing,” McIlroy continued, “is just stay positive and not get too down on myself.”
Hang in there, Rory. Hang in there.