PINEHURST, N.C. – Rory McIlroy tuned up for this week’s U.S. Open by spending a few hours with the most prolific major winner of them all.
Last week in North Palm Beach, Fla., McIlroy had a two-hour conversation with Jack Nicklaus, and they talked about business, golf, branding. Everything.
The 25-year-old was just a week removed from a head-scratching performance at the Memorial Tournament – at Jack’s event – where he opened with 63, barely made the cut and eventually finished in a tie for 15th.
McIlroy and Nicklaus had lunch at Muirfield Village, and Rory hoped that they could arrange a longer sit-down. He was originally scheduled to have dinner at Nicklaus’ house last Tuesday, but his stay at Pinehurst went a little longer than intended. He settled for a Wednesday morning meeting at Nicklaus' office in North Palm Beach.
“He’s been really generous with his time with me, offered any sort of advice that I wanted or needed. He’s been great,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Pinehurst. “To have that at my disposal, it has to be an advantage in some way.”
Perplexing to Nicklaus – and the rest of us – is McIlroy’s scoring trend this season. He’s first on Tour in Round 1 scoring (67.63), but 192nd – third-to-last – in second-round average (73.5). He has recorded a nine-hole score of 40 or worse in each of his past four Tour events.
During their meeting last week, Nicklaus asked McIlroy: “How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78?” – which is what he did at the Memorial.
“He said to me that he was never afraid to change things up in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well,” McIlroy said. “He’d make a swing change right then and there. The mental strength to be able to do that and trust what you’re doing ...”