Has Rory found the secret to ending his major drought?

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Four years without a major win, Rory McIlroy tried something new ahead of the US Open, writes Alex Perry from Shinnecock Hills

Hello. Welcome to this special edition of Dialled In live from Shinnecock Hills. Well, not completely live. I’m not writing this live. That would be odd and awfully strenuous on my wrists.

I’ve just come out of Rory Mcllroy’s press conference.

I almost have to keep reminding myself that McIlroy has not won a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship. That’s almost four years. A ridiculously long time for a player of his calibre.

Every time he tees up at one of the big four, the expectation is that he will be there or thereabouts at the end of the week. But he’s used to that pressure. It comes with being one of the best in any sport.

But his preparation for an assault on a second US Open title have been a little different.

In fact, it’s “just been fun”.

The Northern Irishman admitted he has played golf 18 out of the last 19 days, from Wentworth to Memorial before heading to this luscious strip of land taking you away from New York City.

“I played National a couple of times, and Friar’s Head, then went in closer to the city and played Garden City,” McIlroy added.

“I took a day off on Saturday to recharge the batteries. It’s not a bad place to spend a couple of weeks in the summer.”

But it’s McIlroy’s new-found ability to be able to get out and just play pressure-free golf that is the forefront of his bid to add to his four majors.

“I would say for maybe five or six years I never played fun golf. It was all to do with getting ready to play tournaments, and I didn’t understand people that went out and played a lot.

“But since my dad became a member at Seminole and I was able to go over and play a lot of golf with him that I really started to enjoy fun golf again and playing these different courses.

“It’s a real treat to be able to show up at any golf course in the country or the world and get out and play it and have a bit of fun.

“And I think it does put you in a different frame of mind. You’re relaxed out there, and maybe that bleeds into your mindset whenever you’re here in a big championship. If I’ve got a shot that I need to execute under pressure here this week, it’s no different than playing that shot when I’m out there playing with my dad or my buddies.
“So obviously there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you’re going to play.”

So will McIlroy’s fun golf strategy work? We’ll find out on Sunday – or maybe even before.

But what I’m more interested in is, if you’re Rory McIlroy and you show up at a golf course, do you pay a green fee?

In a jam

You’ll have probably spotted some tweets about the traffic getting to Shinnecock Hills.

It is as bad as it sounds, as my colleague Steve Carroll and I found out on Wednesday morning. It is 42 miles from our hotel, Jake’s 58 Casino in Islandia, to Shinnecock Hills. We left at 5am and did the first 36 miles in around half an hour. It then took an hour and a half to do the rest, arriving at the media centre just shy of 7am.

Still, absolutely not complaining. Especially when you’ve found a radio station that seems to exclusively play pop punk hits from between 1996 and 2002.

It’s OK though, because McIlroy had some advice…

Any traffic issues pale in comparison to the flight over. There’s a special place in Hell for anyone that sits in front of me and puts their seat all the way back. I’m six-foot-four for crying out loud. I’m paying for leg room on the way home…

Keeping up appearances

After a quick bite to eat, I took a little wander up to the stunning clubhouse which perches atop the hill surrounded by the 1st and 14th tees, the 18th green, and the practice range.

I did witness quite a funny little moment on the 1st tee. The announcer welcomed Luke List, Kevin Kisner and Kevin Chappell to the tee, only to put the emphasis on the ‘e’ in ‘Chappell’.

Did the player not like that. “It’s ChAppell,” he snarked.

Tea for none

Again, NOT complaining. At all. But no tea, for almost a week?

That’s enough for today. We’re now going to head over to Bethpage Black to check out the course that will host the 2019 PGA Championship and 2024 Ryder Cup…

If you’re on social media, you can follow me and Steve on Twitter – @AlexPerryNCG and @SteveCarrollNCG – as well as @NCGmagazine. And if Instagram is your thing, our handle is nationalclubgolfer and we’ll be posting stories daily.

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