The former number one golfer in the world confidently strode up the 13th fairway of the Oak Hill Country Club. The twisting, lengthy 598 yard par 5 hardly proved a challenge for Rory McIlroy as he stuck a wedge about six feet from the cup. He drained the putt for birdie.
A small group near the clubhouse in suburban Rochester walked with him to the nearby 14th tee. The short 323 yard uphill par 4 forces some to hit an iron from the tee. Unafraid of the tall trees, deep rough and multiple bunkers, Rory pulled out the driver and nearly reached the green. No problem. He pitched the ball and rolled it in the hole for an eagle.
On to 15, a 177 yard par 3. He laid an eight iron neatly on the green in a stiff breeze. Dropped the putt for birdie. That's 4 under over 3 holes on a course known to be demanding during major championships. McIlroy later revealed he shot 67 on his first ever visit to Oak Hill.
The Donald Ross designed East Course has produced major champions like Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Curtis Strange. During the second week of August it will add one more to the prestigious list. Rory McIlory is a reasonable bet to be in the hunt on Sunday afternoon.
The 24 year old two time major winner played the course at the same time media members were hacking their way out of deep rough and struggling to adjust to the swift pace of the greens.
That confident stride carries a flexible frame that is not as large as it appears on television. Rory McIlroy hits the ball by generating tremendous torque not from overwhelming brute strength.
Afer the round he took some questions in a PGA produced media event.
He described Oak Hill as timeless. He smiled and covered his face with embarassment as he recalled how he needed a police escort to narrowly avoid missing his tee time at the Ryder Cup at Medinah last year.
Rory promised his game is coming around now that he has several months with his near gear from Nike. He hopes the improvement will culminate with a strong showing at the U.S. Open at Marion in two weeks. He would like to defend his PGA title at Oak Hill, one year after dominating at Kiawah Island.
The young champion is quite unassuming and engaging. Short of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson he tops the list of attractions that are sure to attract thousands of golfers from Central New York when the best professionals in the world play four challenging rounds in an attempt to join Oak Hill's legendary hill of champions.
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