U.S. Open 2019: McIlroy reveals course management strategy he, Koepka and Spieth are all following this week

June 14, 2019

There’s a truism in golf: Hit fairways and greens, and the score will take care of itself. That, it seems, applies as much to your local round this weekend as it does to the greatest golfers on the planet at the U.S. Open.

When asked about his approach to attacking the course this week, McIlroy pointed to a conversation he had with Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth — a braintrust with 11 combined major championships. Whereas the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black favored the long-bombers (Koepka’s and McIlroy’s forte), Pebble Beach favors precision. Their conclusion?

“A unanimous sort of thought with all of us: You hit it into the middle of every green here,” McIlroy said. “These greens are, on average, the smallest that we play all year. I think they’re 3500 square feet is the average.

“So unanimous decision was if you hit the middle of the greens all week, you’re not going far wrong. I know it’s important most weeks, but especially this week, just keep it in the fairways and keep hitting greens, and you’re going to be okay.”

Sounds easy, right? While McIlroy, Spieth and Koepka enjoyed some mixed success in their scores on day one, all three had similar statistics in terms of fairways and greens. All three hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation in the first round, while Spieth and Koepka both hit just seven of 14 fairways. McIlroy hit nine of 14, and, in turn, shot the lowest score of the three.

The strategy comes after years of widespread complaint about the USGA’s U.S. Open setups from some of golf’s biggest names. Some of those gripes centered around the thickness of the rough and the speed of the greens. Successfully deploying this strategy would render any such complaints about Pebble’s setup moot.

And if these three are finding fairways and the middle of greens, chances are, you’ll be seeing their names near or atop the leaderboard come Sunday.

Jun 13, 2019; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Rory McIlroy watches his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports