McIlroy talks to the media at Merion on Tuesday.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Rory McIlroy’s season has featured the good (a runner-up in San Antonio), the bad (a mid-round walk-off at The Honda Classic) and the ugly (an opening-round 78 at Muirfield Village).
It has all been part of the learning curve for the 24-year-old, even if he does already own a pair of major championships, including a U.S. Open.
“I guess managing the expectations, probably, of myself and of other people (has been the most difficult part),” McIlroy said Tuesday from Merion Golf Club. “Coming off the back of a great year last year, and I guess expecting myself to emulate that or even try and do better and it hasn't really happened so far.”
He hasn't made it easy on himself at times in what's been a busy six-plus months.
McIlroy switched equipment in the offseason, signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Nike.
He moved from Northern Ireland to the U.S.
And he recently changed his management team for the second time in his career.
With the year’s second major looming, McIlroy is seeing positive signs however. And it has nothing to do with another soft, rain-soaked golf course, much the way Congressional was when he won there in 2011.
“My iron play's good,” McIlroy said definitively. “It's dialed in. As long as I just put it on the fairway, I feel like I can take advantage of that.”
That has been easier said than done at times, especially this season.
McIlroy ranks 106th in fairways hit, which is actually better than he has each of the last two seasons. But it’s how far off some of those misses have been that has gotten McIlroy in trouble.
Merion’s narrow fairways and thick, wet rough will only add to the pressure.
And all eyes will also be on McIlroy when he tees off Thursday afternoon alongside Tiger Woods and reigning Masters champ Adam Scott.
“It's a good thing,” McIlroy said. “I like it because you're in a group like that and there's a lot of buzz and a lot of atmosphere around it and it gets you focused from the first shot.”
Nonetheless, with every passing start without a win the pressure continues to mount for the now former No. 1 player in the world.
“I feel like it's close,” McIlroy said. “You always want to go out and play well and you want to contend and win tournaments and I haven't done enough of that this year. That’s been the most difficult part.”