Rory McIlroy feeling good ahead of US Open

 

The San Francisco Giants unveiled a new star pitcher in front of 35,000 last night. This was not quite the curve ball girlfiend Caroline Wozniacki lobbed his way at Madison Square Garden in March, more a symbol of Rory McIlroy’s rising profile in the United States.

McIlroy begins the defence of his U.S Open championship across the city at Olympic Club tomorrow. To mark the occasion the Giants invited McIlroy to ‘throw’ the first pitch and presented him with the ultimate token of baseball celebrity;  the bobblehead, a miniature figurine of himself in Giants colours. “I think it’s maybe better looking than me, which is a good thing,” McIlroy said, betraying a demeanour markedly more relaxed than in recent weeks.

McIlroy was a pulled tee shot at the last from a second PGA Tour win of the season in Memphis on Sunday, and feels suitably reconstituted ahead of his first round tomorrow. “I think it's only natural you start to question yourself and question your game a little bit. So to play a solid tournament in Memphis and have a chance to win was great,” McIlroy said.

“It was a disappointing last few holes. But leading up to that point I felt like I played some really good golf. I hadn't played that sort of golf for a few weeks. So it was nice, especially coming into this week.”

McIlroy has been to a degree downgraded in San Francisco by the resurgence of Tiger Woods, who comes into the tournament a short-odds favourite at the bookies and in the hearts of the galleries. McIlroy is at the start of the celebrity process that ultimately brought Woods low and has yet to intuit the best way forward. “I think I'm viewed differently by the golfing public, for sure, and maybe more recognized outside of golf now because of that win.”

On the course the impact of his record victory at Congressional has been easier to measure. It is glimpsed in the eyes of opponents, who shrink an inch or two in his presence, and in his stats since, which boast a run of 13 top five finishes in 15 events prior to last month’s missed cut at the Players Championship. “It's really just given me a lot of self-belief knowing that I've won one of these before and that I can do it again. I feel like I have a chance in these tournaments every time I tee it up.”

The novelty slot that not too long ago was McIlroy’s own has passed for this tournament at least to a 14-year-old boy from Beijing. Andy Zhang, who moved to the United States four years ago, was handed his chance following the withdrawal of Paul Casey. Yesterday he played a practice round with Masters champion Bubba Watson. “My phone has been exploding for the past 24 hours,” Zhang said.

“I have never played in front of a crowd this big. I was shaking on the first tee and I guess I will get used to it. It feels like a dream. Before I came here I asked my caddie and advisor Chris can I like go on to the range and ask the pros for autographs. He said no, you are giving out autographs.”

McIlroy smiled at the anecdote. “When I was 14 I was getting prepared to play in my club championship, not the U.S. Open. It's an unbelievable experience for someone so young. I think he should just enjoy it and take it all in and just realise that he's got so much more time to develop and mature. By the time he's 18 he'll feel like a veteran.”

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone