Relaxed Rory gets Golden advice, narrows focus

Anyone concerned about the state of mind of 2011 U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy after his 15th-place finish at The Memorial last week might be taking the wrong view.

“I’m really enjoying the golf at the minute,” McIlroy said. “Just really enjoying it, finding my love for the game again. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. I wouldn’t call it hard work because it’s fun.”

McIlroy arrived in North Carolina to tackle Pinehurst No. 2 after spending time with Jack Nicklaus, one of golf’s living legends and a masterful U.S. Open player, over lunch of about two hours. Nicklaus brought some light-hearted perspective to McIlroy last week, when they sat down again in Nicklaus’ office in Palm Beach, Fla.

“We had a great conversation about everything — business, golf, brand, the whole lot. And I got a lot from that,” McIloy said, before the conversation turned to his swim-and-sink rounds at The Memorial.

“He said to me, he goes, ‘how the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78? I said, I wasn’t meaning to, Jack. I’m trying not to.”

McIlroy plans to limit his time on social media and leave his cell phone powered down when possible this week. His focus, after five hours on the course Tuesday, is solely on golf. McIlroy said he didn’t learn anything about himself in the past few weeks that he didn’t already know, shaking off a question about his highly publicized breakup with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.

The off-course distractions and drama are no help to McIlroy, but he would like to think he can still live like a 25-year-old on occasion.

“It’s hard. I just want to live my life like a normal 25-year-old,” McIlroy said. “I know that that’s sometimes hard to do, because of the public spotlight that I’m under or whatever it is. As I said, I’m playing, practicing, doing all that I can to be the best player that I can be. But, yeah, of course, you need a balance in your life where you are interested in other things. I’m no different than other 25 years old in the world. I want to go out and see my friends, have some fun.”

Even so, McIlroy said he is making golf his No. 1 priority and believes doing that will give him a chance to win “some of these big tournaments.”

With no singular tweak or focus to work on the past two weeks, McIlroy said his goal is to be able to conform on the move as some of the game’s greats, including Nicklaus.

“He said to me he was never afraid to change things up in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well, he felt like he wasn’t swinging well. He’d make a swing change right then and there,” McIlroy said. “The mental strength to be able to do that and trust what you’re doing. But I had a great conversation with Jack and I feel very honored that I’m able to call him up for advice, if I need to. And he’s been very generous with his time. It was great to spend some time with him last week. Some of the things he said to me, I’m really thinking about going, into this week. He was a great U.S. Open player and hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week.”

McIlroy will make one major change this week — club selection.

“I’ve had four wedges in my bag,” McIlroy said, noting that he would go back to a three-wedge system this week. “Last week I played one round out here and kept score. I used three wedge shots.”

Anticipating he will not need multiple wedges, McIlroy will use a 3-iron this week, a club he doesn’t usually carry, and consider using it more off the tee.