US Open Championship debutant Rory McIlroy is confident he can shoot below par for the week around the notoriously difficult Bethpage Black.
McIlroy, currently third in the Race to Dubai, is not prepared to settle for a reasonable finish at the 109th US Open, despite this week's championship being only the third major of his fledgling professional career.
The Northern Irishman has also been buoyed by his excellent debut at this year's Masters Tournament when he finished tied for 20th, a performance he admitted had raised his expectations in a season where he has already claimed a maiden victory at the Dubai Desert Classic and broken into the world's top 20.
“The Masters I felt as if I played well,” McIlroy said.
“Coming into this week it's my first US Open. I've never really experienced anything like this before.
“So I could say to myself a top 20 finish will be great but I don't want to just finish in the top 20. I want to try and do better than that.
“It's all new for me still. So I don't quite know what to expect when Thursday comes or what way the golf course will be set up.
“But if I can go out and play the way I know I can, I know I'm able to shoot under par on this golf course.”
Asked if he felt ready to challenge defending champion Tiger Woods in his national championship, McIlroy gave a long pause before replying: “If he plays the way he did the last round at Memorial (where he shot 65 to claim victory), then no.
“But I can't control what he does or what anyone else does in the field. I just have to go out and play my golf. If it's good enough, it's good enough. If it's not, then so be it.
“Guys don't go into majors thinking I have to do this to beat Tiger, I have to do that to beat Tiger. They go in and they concentrate on their own game. If their own game at the end of the day isn't good enough, then that's the way it goes.”