Tiger de­serves the credit for US ma­jor suc­cess, says Rory

Daily Mail - - Golf - DEREK LAWRENSON Golf Correspondent in New York

It might be 10 years since tiger Woods last won a ma­jor cham­pi­onship, but Rory mcil­roy be­lieves the 14-time win­ner is still the pri­mary rea­son why Euro­pean golfers are not en­joy­ing more suc­cess at the grand Slam events.

Once the scourge of a gen­er­a­tion led by Colin montgomerie, thomas Bjorn and Lee West­wood, mcil­roy be­lieves Woods’ in­flu­ence now ex­tends to in­spir­ing his Amer­i­can suc­ces­sors, and the fact a quar­tet all aged un­der 30 — Jor­dan Spi­eth, Pa­trick Reed, Justin thomas and Brooks Koepka — cur­rently hold the game’s lead­ing prizes.

‘i think tiger’s been a huge part of this, in the fact they’ve all got to know him on a per­sonal level in his role as as­sis­tant cap­tain at the Ry­der and Pres­i­dents Cups,’ said mcil­roy. ‘he’s a friend of theirs who’s back out here play­ing and be­ing able to say, OK we might not be able to achieve ev­ery­thing that he has but we can at least try.

‘i think that’s played a big part in the great run they’re hav­ing not just in the ma­jors but in team golf as well.’

With the 118th stag­ing of Amer­ica’s na­tional Open get­ting un­der way here at Shin­necock hills to­day, there’s no deny­ing the US is on a roll. Nine of the last 13 ma­jors to be con­tested have been won by play­ers rep­re­sent­ing the stars and stripes. Con­trast that with the mea­gre five who won the 16 held be­fore that.

the last ma­jor rather summed up the trend, with mcil­roy heav­ily favoured to win the masters and com­plete the career grand Slam go­ing into the fi­nal round, only to be over­whelmed by the bril­liant golf of Spi­eth, Rickie Fowler and even­tual win­ner Reed.

Since then, mcil­roy (right), who has not won a ma­jor since the US PgA in 2014, has been on a quest to solve the men­tal co­nun­drum of why his game de­serted him com­pletely on that fate­ful fi­nal day at Au­gusta. Some­what iron­i­cally, he has turned for ad­vice to an Amer­i­can, Brad Faxon. the for­mer US Ry­der Cup player’s in­flu­ence is now such that he was part of the mcil­roy en­tourage who played cour­ses in the area last week. talk to Faxon and it’s not hard to see why he has be­come mcil­roy’s men­tor of choice. Asked by Sports­mail for his take on mcil­roy’s melt­down at Au­gusta, Faxon gave an in­sight­ful ex­pla­na­tion. ‘i don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing falls apart me­chan­i­cally with­out strong in­put from the mind,’ he said. ‘ it doesn’t mat­ter how good you are tech­ni­cally, if you add a lot of thoughts, you go in the wrong di­rec­tion. i think Rory is re­ally good at pro­cess­ing what he didn’t like about that day and learn­ing from it. At the end of the day, it hap­pens. Don’t for­get, Jack Nick­laus fin­ished sec­ond 19 times at the ma­jors.

‘maybe some­thing hap­pened on the Satur­day night that af­fected how Rory played.

‘he’d come from be­hind strongly that day with a 65 and now peo­ple were reach­ing out to him with texts and all that stuff. On top of that he had all his own thoughts about the career grand Slam. i’m sure all that played a part.

‘What’s al­ways been in­ter­est­ing to me is lis­ten­ing to play­ers who are play­ing well. Look back over gen­er­a­tions of sen­sa­tional play and you in­vari­ably hear play­ers speak­ing in sim­ple terms.

‘So, in this com­pli­cated world, with all the in­for­ma­tion play­ers now have at their dis­posal, the trick is to bring it down a notch or two to dis­sem­i­nate what’s useful to you.’

For per­haps the first time in a decade, it’s not mcil­roy who will be spear­head­ing the Euro­pean chal­lenge in the eyes of the book­mak­ers and de­servedly so, given Justin Rose’s im­pe­ri­ous form.

Four wins and 15 top 10s in his last 20 events speaks vol­umes about his chances of win­ning a sec­ond US Open ti­tle.

Asked about be­ing ranked above Rory, the English­man un­der­lined his con­fi­dence. ‘makes sense to me,’ he said.

As for tiger, he won his ma­jors while never al­low­ing a ri­val to get close to him. Can he still win now they’re pick­ing his brains and learn­ing his se­crets? Along­side the favoured names, what’s great about a US Open is the bat­tal­ion of un­der­dogs who emerge from sec­tional qual­i­fy­ing.

Among them are English quar­tet matt South­gate, Paul War­ing, tom Lewis and Ryan Evans, plus young Scot Ryan Lumsden, who claimed his place and then drove six hours back to his univer­sity in Chicago for an im­por­tant exam the fol­low­ing day.

Some will never be heard from again. One or two could well make the back pages of the New York news­pa­pers for a day or two.

But by Sun­day, ex­pect the scene to be dom­i­nated by fa­mil­iar names and the tro­phy to be held by one of the world’s top 15. Will he be Amer­i­can once more?


English­men in New York: Justin Rose (left) and Tommy Fleet­wood in prac­tice yes­ter­day

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