SAN FRANCISCO -- Rory McIlroy figured there would be plenty of reminders of his landmark U.S. Open win this week at Olympic. And if he happened to forget, he needed only to look up Tuesday as he boarded his courtesy Lexus, where the highlights of his Congressional win were playing on a jumbo screen above.
The 2012 Open will be played a continent away from suburban Washington D.C., and yet for McIlroy, the events of last year will be shadowing him all week. Perhaps that's a welcome memory for a player who jumped to superstar status on the strength of his eight-stroke win in the Open. But it could pose a challenge for someone who has missed three of his last four cuts.
*After finally snapping his missed cut streak last week, McIlroy could afford to smile on Tuesday. Photo by Getty Images
"Of course it does," McIlroy said when asked if his mediocre stretch has weighed on his confidence. "I think it's only natural you just start to question yourself and question your game a little bit."
McIlroy admits to viewing his game through a different prism than he did a year ago, perhaps an inevitability given the lavish praise heaped upon him after his first major win. On one hand, he said, it proved to him he has a chance to win every time he plays. But he also said it spoiled him, with mere strong finishes no longer feeling as satisfying.
"You're just not happy with top 10s anymore, and you're not happy finishing in the top five," he said. "It's a good result, but it's not what you want. When yoy get yourself into positions like I did last week, you want to finish them off and get wins."
McIlroy's tie for seventh last week at Memphis may have seemed like a disappointment, but on the heels of the worst stretch of his pro career, it was also an encouraging sign. It also helped shift the conversation away from what's gone wrong to what's still to come. First up for McIlroy Tuesday night was a trip to AT&T Park, where he was to throw out the first pitch at the Giants game. This would be foreign territory for the native of Northern Ireland, but given the alternative, McIlroy wasn't fazed.
"I definitely would rather get booed at a baseball game than on a golf course," he said.
-- Sam Weinman