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Pinehurst to pose major test for Rory McIlroy and rivals

Updated: Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 11:41 | Comments

Rory McIlroy admits keeping ball on the Pinehurst greens will be a stern challenge
Rory McIlroy admits keeping ball on the Pinehurst greens will be a stern challenge

The 114th US Open gets under way today with tournament officials keeping a watchful eye on a Pinehurst course set to pose a daunting test for the world's best players.

Restoration work undertaken by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore means there is none of the heavy rough and narrow fairways usually associated with the tournament, leaving sandy "native areas" and "turtleback" greens as the course's defence.

However, it is proving so difficult to keep a ball on the small, undulating green on the par-three ninth that officials are set to move the tee forward and only play the hole at its full 191 yards during one of the four rounds.

Rory McIlroy admitted he was struggling to keep an eight-iron approach on the putting surface and USGA officials are wary of a repeat of the farcical scenes in the final round at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, when a combination of extremely dry conditions, fast greens and a questionable pin position led to a stoppage of play while the seventh green was watered.

McIlroy is among the early starters on the opening day as he looks to add to his two major titles, the first of which came in this event at Congressional in 2011.

The 25-year-old won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month, just four days after announcing he had split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, and revealed he has since made golf his number one priority.

"We're going into the bulk of the season and I'm just really enjoying my golf at the minute," McIlroy said. "I feel like my game is in a good place and I wanted to try to prolong that as much as I can.

"I was down in Florida last week, the weather was good and there was no better place to be than out on the course and playing golf and practising and just messing around in the short game area trying different shots, different techniques for this week and really finding my love for the game again.

"I'm really enjoying what I'm doing" - Rory McIlroy on his form ahead of US Open

"I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. Being able to bring that on to the course and test it under major championship pressure, that's what it's all about.

"Of course, you need a balance in your life where you are interested in other things. I'm no different than other 25-year-olds in the world. I want to go out and see my friends, have some fun.

"But I've stayed off social media for the most part the last few weeks and I'm going to continue to do that for the foreseeable future.

"I'm really enjoying my golf at the minute and just making that the number one priority. That’s what I want to continue to do and I feel like, if I do that, it will give me a great chance to win some of these big tournaments coming up."

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