Newspaper article International New York Times

A Better-Than-Ever McIlroy? ; World's Top-Ranked Golfer Puts Recent Blips Behind and Looks Ahead to Open

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Better-Than-Ever McIlroy? ; World's Top-Ranked Golfer Puts Recent Blips Behind and Looks Ahead to Open

Article excerpt

After failing to make two cuts recently, perhaps all the world's top-ranked golfer really needed was a little rest before he starts his quest of a second U.S. Open crown starting Thursday.

When everything is in sync, Rory McIlroy is every bit the world- beater he's cracked up to be.

One only has to look back to early May to see the world's top- ranked player at his finest.

Two weeks after dispatching all challengers to win the WGC Match Play, McIlroy was setting records with his seven-shot romp at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Yet only two weeks after that, the 26-year-old star was looking dazed and befuddled, carding an 80 at Royal County Down in an Irish Open that benefits his charity and where he serves as host. The next day, another missed cut left him with more unexpected down time.

It isn't exactly the kind of momentum anyone would like to take into the year's second major.

But perhaps all McIlroy really needed was a little rest before he sets out for Chambers Bay in quest of a second U.S. Open crown starting Thursday.

"Mentally, I was ready to have a little break," McIlroy said last week during a stop at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where he will defend his PGA Championship crown in August.

"I just got away from it, did some other things that I enjoy," he said.

"Gearing up for the second major of the year, my game is feeling in really great shape," he added. "I feel like I can have another summer not too dissimilar to last year."

That would surely be disheartening news to McIlroy's closest rivals, who saw the Northern Irishman sweep through two majors and a World Golf Championship event to firmly set himself up as the man to beat.

"You look at a guy like him, he kind of has that Tigeresque drive to do more," his compatriot Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, told reporters at the BMW PGA Championship in England last month, as McIlroy accepted the European Tour's 2014 Player of the Year honors.

"He feels very driven right now," McDowell added, "and certainly it would not surprise me to go on and see him continue with some strong play this year."

Like Woods once did, McIlroy has shown himself capable of remarkable feats whenever he tees it up.

He dominated TPC Harding Park's closing holes on the way to the WGC Match Play crown, winning twice in extra frames and once on the 18th green.

Two weeks later, he took control of the Wells Fargo Championship with a third-round 61. He went on to a seven-stroke romp, the third time that he has won a PGA Tour event by at least that many strokes.

Suddenly, all the chatter about Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, or Rickie Fowler, the Players Championship winner, stopped cold.

McIlroy insists that it wasn't a statement, but more like a fairly emphatic reminder that he's still around. …

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