Rory McIlroy is targeting a fast start to the 120th US Open as he seeks to add further credence to golf’s so-called ‘Nappy Factor’.
New fathers have been seen to experience an unusually high rate of success and McIlroy is hoping that rings true as he seeks to end a six-year major drought, either at Winged Foot this week or in the Masters in November.
With a home in Florida and an American wife it will be the ‘Diaper Factor’ getting the credit if McIlroy can claim a second US Open title on Sunday, but the world number four is well aware he needs to get himself high on the leaderboard from the outset.
“If you’ve looked at my major championship performances over the last few years, I’ve just gotten off to slow starts,” the four-time major winner said.
“I probably just put a little too much pressure on myself going into tournaments. And from there, shooting a bad score on the first day and putting yourself under even more pressure from there to just make it to the weekend, and then to try to play catch-up, I think that’s been the big thing.
“When I start tournaments well, I seem to stay up there. I started Pebble (Beach) last year with a nice score and stayed up there for the most part, (although) I didn’t quite finish the week the way I wanted to.
“But that’s been the big thing for me. If I can start and put a good solid round together on a Thursday, I’m usually right there.”
McIlroy’s wife Erica gave birth to the couple’s first child, Poppy Kennedy McIlroy, two weeks ago and the timing allowed him to compete in the season-ending Tour Championship.
A tie for seventh place at East Lake – based on 72-hole scores rather than the tournament’s handicap system – was the 31-year-old’s first top 10 since the sport returned following the coronavirus shutdown.
“I think it just puts things in perspective a little bit,” added McIlroy, who proudly revealed he had changed his daughter’s first two nappies.
“My career matters to me and I care about it very much, but at the same time, it makes the hard days a little easier to get over, right?
“When I say it’s not the be-all and end-all, it’s a major championship and I’ve grown up my whole life dreaming of winning these tournaments, and that’s not going to change, but if it doesn’t quite happen, I can live with that and go home and be very happy and leave what’s happened at the golf course, at the golf course.
“I think that’s maybe something that I haven’t done so well in the past. I haven’t left my job at the office basically, I’ve brought it home with me, and I’ve let it affect my mood and how I am.”
McIlroy was a year away from turning professional when Winged Foot last staged the US Open in 2006 and Geoff Ogilvy won with a total of five over par, but he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw on his first practice round.
“I think when you read articles about golf courses sometimes they get so hyped up and I thought I was going to have to hit driver, 5-iron into every par four and it’s not quite like that,” he added.
“There’s still places where precision beats power, and that’s been the case here at US Opens in the past. You’ve got to put your ball into position and get it on to the right levels of these greens, leaving it below the hole, giving yourself decent putts.”