US PGA Championship 2020: I should be used to no fans by now – Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy’s last major win was in 2014
Date: 6-9 August Venue: Harding Park, San Francisco
Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra and text updates on the BBC Sport website across all four days

Rory McIlroy has said he should be adapted to playing without crowds by now as he aims to end his major drought at this week’s US PGA Championship.

The first major since the coronavirus lockdown begins at Harding Park in San Francisco on Thursday.

McIlroy has struggled playing in front of no spectators, recording a best finish of 11th in five events since the restart.

“Obviously it isn’t new to us at this point,” the Northern Irish golfer said.

“We’ve been back playing on Tour for the last eight or nine weeks. I’ve found myself looking at leaderboards a little more just to see where I am on there and see where other people are.

“There’s no feedback from anywhere else; there’s even no scoreboard holders, so you don’t even know how the guys in your group are doing, but at this point we should all be used to it.

“We all wish that we were playing in front of fans and have it feel like a real major championship, but I think we’re just lucky that we’re able to play golf tournaments at this point.

“It’s five tournaments in, I should be pretty much adapted to it now. If having to play golf without fans, if that’s in the forefront of my mind as one of my biggest concerns, then everything is OK.”

Memories of Harding Park success

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy finished tied for 47th at last week’s WGC-St Jude Invitational

McIlroy admitted previously that he has found it “easy to lose focus” without the noise and excitement generated by spectators and his form since the restart has dropped significantly from what it was before lockdown.

The four-time major winner finished third in the Farmers Insurance Open and then fifth in each of his next three starts, but since June he has fallen from first in the world to third.

However, he is hoping memories of his 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play victory at this week’s venue of Harding Park will work in his favour.

“I think if I remember anything about the week is that I played well when I needed to and I hit good shots at the right times, and that’s sort of what you need to do in match play,” he added.

“It’s nice to have some memories around a golf course that you’re playing a major championship on. It’s nice to have those memories and be able to recall some of the shots that you’ve hit.

“Hopefully some of that can help me this week and can rekindle that sort of form that helped me win here a few years ago.”

Major drought ‘doesn’t keep me awake at night’

It is now six years since McIlroy’s last major success – the 2014 US PGA Championship at Valhalla – since then he has recorded 10 top-10 finishes in the game’s four biggest events.

Although often reminded about the drought, he insists it “does not keep me awake at night”.

“I would have liked to have won a couple more majors in that time frame, and I feel like I’ve had a couple of decent chances to do so and I just haven’t got the job done,” he added.

“But the good thing is we have at least three opportunities this year, and then hopefully if things normalise going forward, four opportunities.

“So we’re playing seven major championships in the next 12 months basically. I’ve got plenty of opportunities coming my way.”

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