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McIlroy targets fast US Open start in bid to end major drought

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy meets the press on the eve of the 2019 US Open Golf Championship at Pebble Beach
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy meets the press on the eve of the 2019 US Open Golf Championship at Pebble Beach GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
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Pebble Beach (United States) (AFP)

Former champion Rory McIlroy, aiming to halt a streak of three missed cuts at the US Open, is looking for a solid start on Thursday in the third major of the year at Pebble Beach.

McIlroy, who finished tied for 21st at the Masters and tied for eighth at last month's PGA Championship, said slow starts -- a one-over 73 in the first round at Augusta and a two-over 72 at Bethpage Black -- left him too much work to do in his bid for a fourth major title and his first since he won both the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2014.

"My first rounds at Augusta and Bethpage this year just sort of put me a little bit behind the eightball," McIlroy said Wednesday at Pebble Beach. "And it's hard to catch up.

"Especially, major championships are played on the toughest courses, and you start to chase on those really tough courses, it's hard to do that.

"The majors that I've won, I started every single one of them really well, rounds in sort of the mid-60s. I think that's what's held me back a little bit."

The 30-year-old Northern Ireland star, who won the US Open at a rain-softened Congressional in 2011, has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the 12 tournaments he has played in this year.

In addition to a victory at the Players Championship, he arrived at Pebble Beach off a runaway win in the Canadian Open, where he fired a final-round 61 on Sunday for a 22-under total and a seven-shot victory.

McIlroy, who could become the first player to win the US Open immediately after notching a US PGA Tour title, said it would be "liberating and satisfying" to end his major drought on the course where Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell won the US Open in 2010.

However, he cautioned that momentum doesn't necessarily carry over from one tournament to the next.

"Last week is over, it's done, and you move on to the next week," he said, although he acknowledged the confidence gained remains.

"I know what I'm capable of, and it's just about trying to get that out of myself just a little more often," he said. "I felt really comfortable with everything for the last few weeks."

That confidence didn't waver when he missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament, a disappointment that he said turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the extra days of practice helped him sort out a few problems in his game and set the stage for his sparkling weekend in Toronto.

"I hit driver. I hit it hard," he said. "I played with less technical thoughts, and that was really it ... I think I proved to myself that I can go out and I can do that, and hopefully I can do that more often."

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