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US Open 2024: Rory McIlroy insists he is 'closer than ever' to elusive fifth major victory at Pinehurst No 2

Rory McIlroy finished runner-up to Wyndham Clark at last year's US Open and remains without a major victory since 2014 PGA Championship success; Watch live coverage of the opening round on Thursday from 12.30pm on Sky Sports Golf

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Rory McIlroy claims he's closer than ever to winning a fifth major and suggests that he's planning to be at the top of the sport for at least another 10 years

Rory McIlroy insists he is “closer than ever” to ending his decade-long drought for an elusive fifth major title this week in the US Open at Pinehurst No 2.

McIlroy has won three times this year, defending his Hero Dubai Desert Classic title on the DP World Tour before back-to-back PGA Tour victories at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championship, although remains without a major since his 2014 PGA Championship success.

The world No 3 has posted 20 top-ten finishes in majors since that one-shot victory at Valhalla, more than any other player during the same period, with McIlroy remaining confident of ending that run and adding to his major tally.

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Wayne 'Radar' Riley looks back at Rory McIlroy's win at Valhalla in 2014 at the PGA Championship, his last major triumph

"I've always said I still feel like being the most successful European in the game is within my reach," McIlroy said in his pre-tournament press conference. "I've got obviously Seve [Ballesteros] and Sir Nick Faldo to pass there in terms of major wins.

"I'm really proud of my body of work over the past 15 years and everything that I have achieved, whether it be season-long titles or individual tournaments or majors.

"Obviously getting my hands on a fifth major has taken quite a while, but I'm more confident than ever that I'm right there, that I'm as close as I've ever been."

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The men’s major season continues this month at the US Open, live on Sky Sports. Can anyone stop Scottie Scheffler from victory at Pinehurst?

McIlroy has enjoyed considerable success on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, winning the FedExCup three times and ending top of the Race to Dubai standings on five occasions, although the 35-year-old is reluctant to set a target for a number of major victories he wants to reach.

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"I wouldn't say I have a particular number of wins [as a target]," McIlroy added. "I think the only thing about trying to pick a number is that you're setting yourself up for failure or disappointment.

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"Tiger [Woods] wanted to surpass Jack [Nicklaus]. It looks like he might not get there, but are we going to call Tiger's career a failure? Absolutely not. It's arguably the best. He's played the best golf anyone's ever seen.

"There's always going to be that tinge of what could have been. I don't want to do that to myself. If someone would have told me at 20 years old I'd be sitting here at 35 and this is the career I've had, I would not have believed them and I would have been ecstatic.

Rory McIlroy waves after putting on the first green during the final round of the Memorial golf tournament, Sunday, June 9, 2024, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Image: Rory McIlroy finished tied-15th at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday

"I still have a good little bit of time here, hopefully for the next 10 years. I still like to think I've got a good run ahead of me. Whatever those numbers are, whatever the totals add up to, I'll accept that and feel like I've done pretty well for a little boy from Northern Ireland that dreamed of playing golf for a living one day."

How 'embracing patience' has helped McIlroy

McIlroy claimed his breakthrough major victory in the 2011 contest, having squandered a four-shot lead during the final round of The Masters earlier that year, then managed just one top-10 in his following seven US Open appearances.

The 35-year-old has finished no worse than ninth in his last five US Open starts, including a runner-up finish to Wyndham Clark last year, with McIlroy now taking a different mindset to how he approaches the events.

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A look back at frustrating final round for Rory McIlroy at last year's US Open, where he finished a shot behind Wyndham Clark

"I've been on a pretty good run of US Open performances over the last few years," McIlroy explained. "Obviously had a close call at LACC [Los Angeles Country Club] last year, obviously Wyndham [Clark] just pipping me to the post there.

"I feel like I really struggled at US Open setups, 2016, '17, '18 in particular. I sort of had a bit of a, I guess, come-to-Jesus moment after that, tried to really figure out why that was, then my performances from 2019 and after that have been really, really good."

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the Canadian Open golf tournament in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Image: Rory McIlroy has been grouped alongside Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele for the first two rounds at the US Open

"On what has caused the switch in results, McIlroy added: "I would say embracing the difficult conditions, embracing the style of golf needed to contend at a US Open, embracing patience. Honestly, embracing what I would have called "boring" back in the day.

"Explosiveness isn't going to win a US Open. It's more methodically building your score over the course of four days and being okay with that. Honestly, it's just more of a reframing of a mindset than anything else."

'Relentless' Scheffler relishing McIlroy and Schauffele battle

Rory Mcllroy, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele will play together at the US Open
Image: Mcllroy, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele will play together at the US Open

World No 1 Scottie Scheffler arrives as the overwhelming pre-tournament favourite to claim a third major title after a one-shot victory at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday, his fifth win in eight PGA Tour starts.

McIlroy and Xander Schauffele are expected to be the closest challengers to Scheffler this week, although both players are adamant that the American is deservedly favourite to add to his major tally.

"The only thing that took him from winning a golf tournament was going into a jail cell for an hour!" McIlroy joked, referencing Scheffler's arrest at the PGA Championship. "A lot of stuff went on in his life, as well. They've just had a new child. He's been through some struggles in his game, particularly the putter that he's been able to turn around.

"It's not as if he hasn't had his challenges along the way, or circumstances have been a little bit different for him. The word that I describe it as is 'relentless'. It seems like every time he shows up, he is the guy to beat, and deservedly so.

"This run that he's been on, I think he's played 14 times this year or 13 times this year, only once out of the top 10. Seems like he's always in contention. Undoubtedly the best player in the world at the minute by a long way."

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PGA Championship winner Schauffele admits it will be difficult to stop current world No 1 Scottie Scheffler

Schauffele has moved as Scheffler's closest challenger in the world rankings after his maiden major victory last month at the PGA Championship lifted him to world No 2.

"I think I need some more work to [catch Scheffler]," Schauffele said. "I obviously believe I can, but Scottie is doing incredible things. Every week we play, he seems to build a bigger lead, and somehow make the mountain even taller for all of us to climb.

"That's all he's been doing, and hats off to him for being so consistent and playing at such a high level for such a long time. I believe I can do it, but it's going to take some time."

Who will win the third men's major of the year? Watch the US Open live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 12.30pm on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the US Open and more with NOW.

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