• US PGA Championship

Driver giving McIlroy confidence to eye victory

ESPN staff
August 9, 2012
Rory McIlroy credited his driving for a fine opening round © PA Photos

Rory McIlroy believes his driving will give him a massive advantage over the rest of the field this week, after opening his challenge at the US PGA Championship with a firve-under par round.

McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion, used his driver ten times during the course of his first round on Thursday - time and again hitting long and straight drives that set up great opportunities to fire at the pins.

The Northern Irishman eventually finished one shot adrift of Carl Pettersson's early lead - but believes the confidence he has with the longest club in his bag could reap rewards over the next three days.

"When you're hitting it in the fairway and you're hitting it long, it gives you a big advantage over a good percentage of the field," McIlroy said. "Like, for instance, I was going in with a little wedge on six. It's 480 yards, where maybe the rest of the field might be going in with something longer. It gives you an opportunity to get to some of these par-fives in two, as well.

"Of course, you see a drive go down the middle of the fairway 330 yards, it's going to give you a little bit of confidence, too, so that's nice."

McIlroy's round was even more impressive considering he had only actually played the Kiawah Island course once in practice this week, a change from his previous major championship preparations. The Northern Irishman revealed that he instantly felt comfortable on the Ocean Course and did not feel the need to over-analyse it

"I'm pretty comfortable with the golf course, on the golf course," he noted. "I played nine holes on Monday, nine holes on Tuesday and that was it. That's all I played. I didn't feel like I needed to play any more.

"I've got my lines off the tees and I know what it's like around the greens. I think that was any first bogey free round in a while, and it's always nice to shoot a round with no bogeys."

With a fine start to the tournament under his belt, McIlroy already has enough major experience to know that there is still a lot of work to be done before he can think about a Sunday charge to victory. However, he is confident he has the right mentality to keep himself in contention over the remainder of the tournament.

"You have to have the right attitude going out there," he said. "You have to realise that to give yourself a chance going into the final day of a major, there's still 54 holes to play, and especially on this golf course, middles of greens are totally okay.

"Every time you hit it in the middle of the green here, you're going to have a chance, especially the way the greens are rolling.

"For me, it's just about giving myself as many chances as possible, playing conservatively when I need to, and then knowing the right times when to be aggressive."

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