McIlroy switched off his phone and even gave away his laptop to cope with the aftermath of his split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki last month, an approach which paid instant dividends as he won the BMW PGA Championship just four days later. The phone of the former world No 1 will remain silent during this week’s US Open and his Twitter account will be less active for the “foreseeable future”, McIlroy opting to revert to more old-fashioned means of communication with 18-times major winner Nicklaus.
“I spent two hours with Jack Nicklaus last week in his office in Palm Beach and had a great conversation about everything; business, golf, brand, the whole lot,” McIlroy revealed in his pre-tournament press conference at Pinehurst last night. “And I got a lot from that. He said to me, ‘How the hell can you shoot 63 and then 78 [in the first two rounds of Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament]. I said I wasn’t meaning to, Jack. I’m trying not to!
“He said to me he was never afraid to change things up in the middle of a round if it wasn’t going well. [If] he felt like he wasn’t swinging well, he’d make a swing change right then and there. I had a great conversation with Jack and I feel very honoured that I’m able to call him up for advice if I need to. He’s been very generous with his time. Some of the things he said to me, I’m really thinking about going into this week. . . hopefully some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week.”
Having struggled in the majors last year – memorably describing his golf after missing the cut in the Open Championship as “brain dead” – McIlroy had targeted doubling his tally of two major titles in 2014.
The 25-year-old recorded his best finish of eighth at the Masters without ever being in contention, but believes he is close to the form which justifies being made favourite for a second US Open title this week.
“You have to go back to Padraig Harrington in ’08 to have a multiple major champion in a single year,” McIlroy added. “I feel like my game is in a good enough place where I can give myself a chance to do that.
“After the season I had in the majors last year, I was coming in this year and making them a real priority. I want to get in contention. I want to feel the buzz of being there on the last day of majors and having a chance to win and being more consistent.”
Whether McIlroy can do that at Pinehurst remains to be seen, with the firm, fast conditions and treacherous “turtleback” greens set to pose the world’s best players a very tough test.
McIlroy highlighted the difficulty of the greens by saying there may be just five pins he can attack in 72 holes, but insists he is “relishing the challenge” of grinding out pars rather than decimating the field with a string of birdies.
“It’s going to be a test of patience and I think I am better equipped than I was a few years ago,” he added. “It’s conditions that I haven’t won in before and I would love to be able to prove to myself, prove to other people, that I can win in different conditions.”