KOHLER, Wis. (AP) — Rory McIlroy needed a break after missing the cut two straight weeks.
Returning to the site of what McIlroy considers one of his breakthrough tournaments — the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits — might give the world’s top-ranked golfer an extra confidence boost going into next week’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in Washington.
Not that McIlroy seems too worried about his game.
“Personally, I didn’t really look much into what happened those last two events,” McIlroy said Friday at media day for this year’s PGA Championship, which returns to Whistling Straits in August. “Just concentrating what I really need to do well leading into next week.”
McIlroy had a tough two weeks in Europe in late May. He missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship in England three weekends ago.
Born in Northern Ireland, McIlroy missed the cut again at the Irish Open the following week — a tournament he was hosting, no less, in familiar surroundings. It was a disappointing end to a stretch of five straights weeks on the course.
“I think I can put the last two tournaments on a little bit of fatigue,” he said.
So McIlroy took last week off, electing to sit out The Memorial to get some rest at home in Florida.
“I didn’t touch a golf club last week. I played five weeks in a row. Mentally, I was ready to have a little bit of a break. Just got away from it,” McIlroy said.
Consider Friday’s gathering at Whistling Straits, a scenic public course along Lake Michigan, an unofficial pep rally for McIlroy.
Televisions inside the course’s Irish Barn showed a highlight video of McIlroy’s win at the 2014 PGA at Valhalla, his fourth victory at a major. The golfer received honorary jerseys from the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Badgers basketball team and the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks — the last one presented to McIlroy by Bucks coach and avid golfer Jason Kidd.
McIlroy can draw on fond memories from the last time the PGA Championship was at Whistling Straights five years ago, when Martin Kaymer won after beating Bubba Watson in a playoff.
McIlroy finished tied for third at 10-under, one shot off the lead at the end of regulation.
“It was my first real chance in contention in a major, especially going into Sunday,” McIlroy said.
It was experience in a pressure situation from which McIlroy could draw when he won his first major the next year, the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
Compared to Congressional, Chambers Bay is a mystery. Just 10 years ago, Chambers Bay was still being built along Puget Sound south of Seattle.
McIlroy will play the course for the first time on Saturday in a practice round.
“It’s a bit of an unknown for everyone, Chambers Bay,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be sort of different.”
The organizers there can only hope their tournament can be just as exciting as the last two PGA Championships at Whistling Straits. Besides 2010, the 2004 PGA at the course also ended in a three-hole playoff, with Vijay Singh defeating Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco.
“Whether we play it in daylight or night time, they always provide dramatic finishes,” said Derek Sprague, president of the PGA of America.
Sitting next to him, McIlroy nodded his head in approval.
“What I love about the PGA Championship and what I hear from the players is that it’s a great test of golf, firm bur fair. It’s right in front of you,” Sprague said.
Note: David Kohler, general chair of the 2015 PGA Championship, said that this year’s tournament is already second in PGA Championship history in combined ticket and corporate hospitality sales revenue. Only the 2004 championship had more combined revenue. Kohler is president and CEO of the Sheboygan-based manufacturing company that bears the family name, best known for plumbing products.
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