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McIlroy hopes ignorance is bliss as he targets US PGA hat-trick

McIlroy hopes ignorance is bliss as he targets US PGA hat-trick

Rory McIlroy believes ignorance could be bliss as he chases a US PGA Championship hat-trick at Southern Hills Country Club this week.

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The Northern Irishman has limited knowledge of the course, which has undergone a significant renovation since it last hosted the Major Championship in 2007, having seen it for the first time in person on Monday. 

McIlroy, the seventh-ranked player on the Official World Golf Ranking, won his fourth and most recent Major at the US PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Course in 2014, two years after he first won the Wanamaker Trophy by a record eight strokes in Kiawah Island.

Ahead of his 14th US PGA Championship appearance, he is prioritising execution in his swing rather than being overly concerned by the course’s challenges ahead of the first round on Thursday.

“I've won a couple of Major Championships where I've played nine holes on Tuesday, nine holes on Wednesday and sort of teed it up and played really well,” McIlroy said at his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday.

“Sometimes not knowing where the trouble is, ignorance is bliss in some ways.

“For me I'll take execution over preparation any day. If you're executing the shots and you're hitting the ball well and the ball is looking where you're going, that's more than half the battle. I feel like I'm executing well.”

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Ahead of arriving on site, McIlroy scouted the course online while he has received a few tips based on the experiences of competitors at last year’s Senior PGA Championship.

“But it doesn't mean you're not preparing or looking at things,” he added.

“I think these greens require a little more time spent on them than some others. But I think strategy off the tee and into the greens is pretty simple, and then it gets a little more nuanced whenever you get on and around the greens.”

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McIlroy finished tied 49th at last year’s US PGA Championship, held at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island – scene of his second Major title in 2012. 

After a closing bogey-free 64 at this year’s Masters Tournament saw McIlroy finish second behind Scottie Scheffler, he followed it up with a fifth-placed finish at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA TOUR earlier this month.

“I feel good about my game,” said McIlroy, who has been grouped alongside four-time champion Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for the first two rounds.

“I've done some good work and I've led greens in regulation the last two tournaments I've played.

“That's something that hasn't quite been there, and that's something you need to do, especially around here. You hit greens here, you're going to give yourself birdie chances.

“The targets are pretty small, pretty limited with where the hole locations will be, so you hit it into the middle of the greens here, you're going to have decent chances. I'm feeling pretty good about that part of the game.

“Short game has been there, as well. I focused a lot on iron play and chipping and putting last week in practice because I knew that was basically sort of going to be the key to having a good week this week. I feel good about it all.

“I'm certainly in a better place with my game than where I was this time last year going into Kiawah.”

I've done some good work and I've led greens in regulation the last two tournaments I've played.

McIlroy highlighted that getting back to the basics of his game has proved instrumental in his form over recent months.

The 33-year-old admits he will have to adapt to the inevitable challenges he will face over the coming days if he is to have a successful week.

"You're going to encounter some stuff during the four days of play that you haven't prepared for. Things happen. We're human. We're not going to hit every shot perfectly," he said.

"But that's the great thing about our game. You have to adapt to these things and adapt to conditions. We're going to have nearly four different winds for four days. So, you're just going to have to sometimes adapt on the fly."

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