Tiger deserves the credit for US major success, says Rory
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