Rory McIlroy believes Tiger Woods has played a significant role in the current American stranglehold on golf’s biggest prizes which he will attempt to break in this week’s US Open.
The United States currently holds the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Presidents Cup, Walker Cup and Curtis Cup, while American players possess all four championships and make up half of the world’s top 10.
And while Woods himself is ranked a relatively lowly 80th as he continues his latest comeback from injury, McIlroy believes his role as assistant captain in team competitions and friendships with the younger generation of American stars has been crucial.
“They have a couple of guys, but one in particular that they try to emulate who’s back out here playing, and he’s become a friend of theirs,” McIlroy said.
“I think that’s been a huge part of all this. A lot of these guys have gotten to know Tiger and been able to say, okay, this is what he does. And we mightn’t be able to achieve everything that he has, but you can at least try to do that.
“I think that’s been a huge thing for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and them as individuals as well.
“These things go in cycles. European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time. It seemed every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.
“I feel good about my game. I have a win this year, which is great, and have got myself into contention quite a few times and I would love to do that again this week. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the mix in this championship.”
McIlroy’s victory at Congressional in 2011 saw him break numerous US Open records, but the four-time major winner’s form in the event since has been mixed.
The Northern Irishman has missed the cut the last two years and his best finish is a tie for ninth at Chambers Bay in 2015, during which he said: “Every year the US Open is very frustrating, apart from 2011. I came off the green on the last there and I said to JP (Fitzgerald, his caddie), ‘Thank God I’ve got one of these’.”
Justin Rose admits he cannot imagine a better scenario than winning a second major title to become world No 1 for the first time in his career.
Those are the prizes on offer for 2013 champion Rose, a product of ending last season with three wins amid 10 consecutive top-10 finishes worldwide and claiming a ninth PGA Tour title in Texas last month.
A runners-up finish in the following week’s Memorial Tournament could have seen Rose move to the top of the rankings, but there is no doubt that a victory here on Sunday would make the 37-year-old the fourth Englishman to become No 1 – after Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald – since the rankings began in 1986.
“I’m in the great position where becoming world No 1 going to be a by-product of winning this week,” Rose said.
“So I may as well just continue to focus on the winning. That’s where the points are. That’s where the fun is, to be honest with you.
“I couldn’t think of a better scenario than to win a major and to become world No 1. I could have finished second at Memorial and become No 1 so it’s nicer to keep focus on the winning. It keeps things cleaner mentally. It keeps things simple.
“I don’t know where any scenarios are this week. All I’m focusing on is winning major championships. That has been my dream as a kid.
“Being world No 1 is a really cool thing to say at some point in your career, but it’s not my primary focus. My primary focus is winning the tournaments that will get me there.”
The rain which continued to fall as Rose gave his pre-tournament press conference could give him and the other early starters an advantage on Thursday, with Tiger Woods and world No 1 Dustin Johnson among the later starters.