Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open 2016 prep: Studying Oakmont online (video, photos)

DUBLIN, Ohio — Rory McIlroy hasn’t seen Oakmont Country Club in person yet, so he did a little homework on the U.S. Open web site Saturday night before the final round of the Memorial Tournament.

« I was actually on the USGA website last night just looking at the flyovers for the holes and stuff, » McIlory said. « So, I don’t really know a lot about it. I know there’s a big road that goes through the middle of it.

« It looks like an awesome golf course. It looks unbelievably hard, and it will reward very good ball striking. It’s going to be tough. »

McIlory said he needs to improve his iron play before then, and he plans to visit Oakmont on Monday.

He finished Sunday 13-under, and was the leader among those who finished before a 2 p.m. weather delay.

Still on the course were William McGirt and Matt Kuchar at 15-under, and J.B. Holmes and Jon Curran at 14-under.

Four others, including Dustin Johnson, were still playing at 13-under. A weather delay was announced just after McIroy finished.

Here is everything McIlroy said after his round Sunday at Muirfield Village Golf Course:

Q. This is good for you going into the Open?

RORY McILROY: Yeah. I mean, I expect a little bit of a tougher test at Oakmont, I think, but, yeah, I feel like my game’s in good shape.

Off the tee I was really good this week, and I feel like my putting improved quite a lot. I feel like, if you look at the stats from my putting this week, it’s actually been really good.

So all things considered, it’s been a decent week. Time to get ready for Oakmont in a couple weeks’ time.

Q. Was it any bit of a tough decision to go back to this putting style?
RORY McILROY: No, not really because I’ve never relied on my putting to play my best golf. Obviously, when you’re winning tournaments, you need to hole a few putts, but, no, no, it’s never been — yeah, I’d be way more comfortable changing my putting grip week to week than I would trying to tinker with my swing or do something with my long game.

Q. What do you need to work on going into Oakmont?
RORY McILROY: My iron play hasn’t been great. I’m just not hitting the ball close enough to the flag with my mid-irons. I need to work on that a little bit, try to shallow out the plane a little bit. Getting a little steep with my short irons. So that’s what I’ll be working on primarily from now until Thursday week, I guess.

Q. Did the winds change a little bit today?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the golf course played a lot more difficult. The longer holes played into the wind, and that made it tough. The par 5s were all a lot tougher than they have been playing. The wind was tricky, especially with the back nine with the trees and stuff. 12 especially was playing pretty difficult.

But, yeah, it was a good tough out there today. It was obviously soft with all of the green, so it was quite receptive. But it did make it a little bit tougher with the wind.

Q. When you hit the turn and look up at the leaderboard, what was the mindset? Do you feel like you need to push a little bit?
RORY McILROY: A little bit. I mean, I knew that I could maybe shoot a 31 or 32 on the back nine to try and at least post a number, and I made four birdies on the back nine. I just made a couple of mistakes as well.

But I feel like 68 out there is a pretty solid score today. It’s moved me up the leaderboard a little bit. I can take a lot from how I’ve played for the most part this week.

Q. Rory, what do you think is harder to overcome, the way Jordan lost the Masters this year or the way D.J. lost the U.S. Open last year? What do you think would be harder to get over?
RORY McILROY: I think D.J., yeah, because Jordan didn’t have a chance on the last to win the tournament, where D.J. hit two unbelievable shots up there. He holes the putt — I mean, his ball couldn’t have finished in a worse place. I had that putt about an hour before that, and it’s just — I mean, you couldn’t stop it short of the hole.

But I think D.J. — especially, I mean, look, D.J. hasn’t won a major, and Jordan has. So it’s going to be — he can at least comfort himself with the fact that he’s already got a couple in the bag where D.J. hasn’t taken his chances when they’ve presented themselves a couple of times. So, yeah, I mean, I’d say — yeah, I’d say it would be tougher for D.J.

But he’s a good player. He’s got a chance to win here. He’s playing great. No reason he can’t go out there at Oakmont and give himself another chance.

Q. Rory, have you been to Oakmont yet? What are your thoughts on the whole place as a club, not just the course itself, but the historical parts about the club?
RORY McILROY: I haven’t been. I’m heading over there tonight. I’m going to play tomorrow afternoon and Tuesday morning. I don’t really know much about it. I just know — I mean, I was actually on the USGA website last night just looking at the flyovers for the holes and stuff. So I don’t really know a lot about it. I know there’s a big road that goes through the middle of it. Yeah, that’s really — I mean, it looks like an awesome golf course. It looks unbelievably hard, and it will reward very good ball striking. It’s going to be tough.

I remember watching a little bit of it back in ’07 when Cabrera won. I’d say you’re probably going to expect a similar score to win this year again if conditions are the way they want them to be.

Q. Kind of an offbeat question, but at 17 you hit it 181 according to ShotLink. What do you sort of make of that when you hear that (inaudible)?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there’s been a lot of big ones. I’m hitting the driver great. I think it more comes from confidence than anything else that I can stand on the tee box and aim right down the middle of the fairway and swing as hard as I can really.

I think I hit one 374 on 11 yesterday. Okay, they’re all a little bit wind assisted. Especially 17, if you carry it over that bunker at 330, you get the downslope or whatever. But I’ve hit a lot of big ones this week, which is good.

I don’t know how much that’s going to come into play at Oakmont. But I feel like I’m driving the ball well. That’s always a good asset to have in your bag going into the U.S. Open.

Q. Is there a sense that, when you hit some of these big ones, you’re like, I know I’ve got that one?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, the one on 11 yesterday, I couldn’t believe where it finished. It finished right up in the bottleneck of the fairway, right at the end of it, and I expected it to maybe — I mean, I made 6, so I shouldn’t really be bragging about it.

I had — it’s funny — but the course played so different. I had an 8 iron in my hand for my second shot yesterday on 11, and today I’m laying up with a 5 iron after a difficult tee shot. So it just shows you how difficult the course plays.

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