Rory and the 8-foot barrier

Rory McIlroy may have to putt like Tiger Woods in his hey-day if he is to take advantage of the 14-time major winner’s absence and win the US Open.

All eyes are focussed on the Holywood starlet following his Masters meltdown, wondering if he can bounce back for that heartache to grab his first major win.

But McIlroy knows that he will have no chance if he doesn’t hole the putts. And that’s why he will be trying to become the 8-foot monster of Congressional today.

Signalling the 8-foot range as key to lifting the trophy on Sunday night, McIlroy said: “Putting is going to be crucial this week, as it always is at a US Open.

“The big one in recent years was Retief Goosen at Shinnecock Hills. I think he had 24 putts in the final round and everyone else failed to break 30.

“The way the greens are set up, people are going to miss greens over the weekend.

“So you are going to have to get it up and down and you are going to have to putt well, especially inside eight feet.”

McIlroy’s riding a wave of confidence with the putter after finishing near the top of the putting charts on his last start in The Memorial two weeks ago.

He broke 30 putts in each round and hopes that US Open chiefs can get the greens up to lightning speed over the weekend.

The US PGA hopes to get the new bent grass putting surfaces rolling at a scary 14 and a half on the stimpmeter.

And while it looks like they are having problems achieving those speeds, McIlroy reckons he has the wand in full working order.

He said: “I don’t mind if they get them to 14 and a half. I hope they do because I like fast greens.

“But it will be tough to get them to 14. If they get them to 13 it will be more than happy.”

The absence of Woods leaves the tournament without an obvious favourite in the eyes on many and McIlroy is chief among the contenders fancied to take advantage.

He said: “It’s obviously not great for the golf tournament - it would have been great to see him play

“But I suppose it leaves the door a little bit open for a few of the guys. To have one of the main contenders not here gives the rest of us a little bit more of a chance.”

After blowing a four-shot final round lead at Augusta, it remains to be seen how McIlroy reacts if he is in contention coming down the stretch.

And he admits that it is only natural that critics are wondering if he really has the right stuff.

While Ernie Els has tipped him to “make history” and win multiple majors en route to becoming the game’s dominant force, McIlroy knows he has to pull off a major win before he becomes part of that debate.

Asked if he’d learned a lesson at Augusta, the world No 8 said: “I think a lot of questions will be asked of me if I get myself into that position (and don’t get it done), not just from myself but from other people.

“But that is natural. People are going to question you until you actually do. If I win on Sunday night then I will be able to say, yes I did learn from it.

“I took some huge positives from the Memorial because I putted very well and hit it well. If I can start holing a few putts I think I will be well up there.”

Bad temper has cost him dear in recent years but he believes he is now able to put golf in perspective following his two-day humanitarian visit to earthquake ravaged Haiti last week.

He explained: “Being a golfer is only a fraction of who we really are and the next time I am struggling on the golf course or having a bad day, I will think about Haiti and that will change my mindset.

“It has given me a huge sense of perspective on life, and makes me realise that golf isn’t such an important thing that we make it out to be sometimes.”

If McIlroy wins the 111th US Open on Sunday night, his name will be etched just below Graeme McDowell’s on the silver trophy.

It would be a perfect Father’s Day gift for his Dad, Gerry, but the player refuses to get ahead of himself.

He said: “It would be nice to put my name below G-Mac’s on that trophy and my Dad is with me this week.

“It would be a nice father’s Day present for him on Sunday night if it were to happen.  But there is a lot of golf to play before that.”

There are also a lot of 8-footers to be holed.