JOHNS CREEK, Georgia (Reuters) - Two months after stunning the golfing world with a runaway victory at the U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy takes aim this week for a second major title in a tournament he believes is tailor-made for his game.
The Northern Irish world number four has been widely backed as a 12-1 favourite for the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, and has tied for third in his previous two appearances in the season’s final major.
“This has been a good tournament for me the last couple of years,” a relaxed McIlroy told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round.
”At Hazeltine (in 2009) I didn’t really have a chance to win; Yang (Yong-eun of South Korea) and Tiger (Woods) were a little far ahead of the rest of the field.
”But I felt last year at Whistling Straits I had a very good chance to win. It didn’t quite work out my way, but it was a great experience for me.
“I love how the PGA of America set the golf course up at this event. I think it really suits my game and puts a premium on ball-striking. I‘m looking forward to get going.”
McIlroy claimed his first major title by eight shots in June at Congressional Country Club on a rain-softened course ideally suited to his power game and high ball flight.
He feels very comfortable on the par-70 Atlanta Athletic Club layout which, at 7,467 yards off the back tees, will test even the game’s longest hitters to the full.
”This golf course is in phenomenal condition, and the fairways are probably the best I’ve ever seen,“ the 22-year-old said. ”The greens are fast and you can’t really get the ball above the hole. It’ll be tricky from there.
“Most of all, it’s a straightforward golf course. Everything is out in front of you. You can make a few birdies around the turn and then you’ve sort of just got to hang on for dear life coming in.”
Asked whether he felt he could replicate the dominant form he delivered at Congressional in this week’s championship, McIlroy replied: ”I‘m not sure. I‘m playing very well. I drove the ball great last week. I‘m hitting it nicely.
“I felt as if I got a really good practice round in yesterday, got all the greens mapped out. As long as I can hole a few putts this week, I feel as if I‘m in with a good chance.”
McIlroy tied for sixth at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the first time he and his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald felt all the hoopla, hype and relentless media commitments following his U.S. Open victory had died down.
“We actually felt as if we were back to work, back to doing what we were supposed to do,” McIlroy said.
”It was a little bit of a whirlwind after what happened at Congressional but it’s nice to feel like you’re back out there and finally working hard again, focusing on trying to win golf tournaments.
“I‘m still trying to deal with things, but trying to get used to a bit more attention. But it’s a great position to be in, and I‘m here. I‘m just excited about trying to win my second major.”