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Rory McIlroy downplays expectations, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler exude confidence

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Stats Report

Rory McIlroy downplays expectations, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler exude confidence

    ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The top three betting favorites faced the media at Oak Hill Country Club on Tuesday with a distinct difference in their overall demeanor.

    Rory McIlroy didn’t exactly inspire potential bettors in his pre-tournament interview. The +1400 third favorite hasn’t won a major since 2014 and comes off missing the cut at the Masters and T47 at the Wells Fargo Championship. So, while he has ties to the area as an honorary member at Oak Hill, he certainly wasn’t portraying over-confidence.

    McIlroy spoke of his swing getting out of position at the top and his club face was subsequently getting too open on the way back. His struggles to square the club on the way down generated a two-way miss but with some focus in practice, he was hopeful things have been ironed out. The bigger issue appears to be his mental focus.

    “It wasn't really the performance of Augusta that's hard to get over, it's just more the mental aspect and the deflation of it and sort of trying to get your mind in the right place to start going forward again, I guess,” McIlroy said Tuesday.

    “I think I'm close. I think I've made some good strides even from Quail Hollow a couple weeks ago. I'm seeing some better things, better start lines, certainly just some better golf shots. A little more sure of where I'm going to start the ball and sort of a more consistent shot pattern.

    “But yeah, look, we'll get out there and see and play. I expect to go out there, and if I can execute the way that I feel like I can, then I still believe that I'm one of the best players in the world and I can produce good golf to have a chance of winning this week.”

    On the other hand, Jon Rahm (+800), the Masters champion with four wins to his name this year, came to the microphone with his usual swagger.

    Rahm is seeking to join Tiger Woods (2002) and Jordan Spieth (2015) as the only players in the last 50 years to win the first two majors of the season.

    “I'm confident. I feel good. It's been a great year. It's been an amazing year. I'm just hoping to keep adding more to it. It's been a lot of fun, and hopefully I can keep riding that wave,” Rahm said.

    “It doesn't happen often that a player wins more than one major in a year, so it would be amazing to be able to join my name to that list.”

    As for Scottie Scheffler – the +750-betting favorite at BetMGM – he has no reason not to be confident given his last 12 starts all resulted in finishes inside the top 12.

    “When I show up to a tournament, I expect to do my best and try and play well. Most importantly, I just try and have a good attitude and go out there and play,” Scheffler said.

    “I try not to place too much of an emphasis on the result. For me it's more about the preparation and showing up to the tournament and having a good attitude and then going out there and competing.”

    Scheffler embraced Jason Day on the range Tuesday and congratulated him on his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, admitting being beaten down the stretch always added a little extra motivation the next time he plays.

    “I'm always trying to kind of improve across the board and address weaknesses. That's something that I'm constantly working on. It's nice to see that it's paying off and having a lot of good results,” Scheffler added.

    “That’s something you've always seen from the best players out here, is them showing up often on leaderboards. So I'm proud that I've been able to do that for the last few months, and hoping to continue that going forward.”

    Another player with plenty of strut in the lead-up and is the recent Mexico Open at Vidanta champion Tony Finau. At +2200 to claim his first major championship, Finau ranks third on the PGA TOUR this season in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, second in Strokes Gained: Approach and third in Strokes Gained: Total. He is also fourth in scoring average.

    “Whenever you can win leading up to a major championship, I think it gives you some confidence that you can play well, and I think that's definitely the case this week,” Finau said.

    “I don't think the recipe changes too much for me with the type of golf I've been playing lately. I've won four times in the last year, so it just tells me that my game is better than it's ever been, and confidence is as high as it's ever been.”

    Finau stressed players would need to get the ball out there on the new Oak Hill, but also value accuracy.

    “You've got to hit it far and you've got to hit it straight. This golf course is going to start from the tee box. If you're not hitting enough fairways, you're not going to be able to play this place very good… it's a golf course that the guy that's going to win this week is going to be driving the golf ball very well,” he explained.

    “The rough is long enough to where you're not going to be able to advance the ball to the greens… and both par-5s are over 600 yards. It's all you can handle, but that's what you want in a major championship.”

    England’s Tyrrell Hatton (+4000) is coming off a T3 at Wells Fargo and T5 at Byron Nelson in his last two starts. He was also runner up at THE PLAYERS and had further top 10s at the Designated WM Phoenix Open and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “The rough is pretty thick. It's very hard to judge around the greens. You'll see guys be very close to the green and not even reach the green, or they'll hit it 25 feet past,” Hatton warned of Oak Hill’s setup.

    “It's going to be really hard to get your chip shots close, and yeah, you want to be holing a lot of putts from inside 10 feet this week. That's for sure.”

    Jordan Spieth (+3500) is chasing the final leg of a career grand slam but bettors should be aware he was practicing with his wrist taped and kinesiology tape on his arm after his WD from his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson last week.

    Majors bring plenty of unique challenges to the players but with tons of pollen floating through the air in Rochester allergy attacks are on the radar.

    “Somebody sneezed in my backswing yesterday, so that was tricky,” Max Homa(+3300) revealed.

    “I had really bad allergies last year in Tulsa. I didn't think I was going to make it. I thought I was going down. It's one of the few downsides of playing golf outside. But I will be thankful. I'll be all right. We'll readjust. This is why there's practice days, so you don't feel this way come Thursday.”

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