Thursday US Open diary

US Open contender Rory McIlroy revealed how he had spent two hours in the company of Jack Nicklaus last week, picking the Golden Bear’s brain for nuggets about how to succeed in this week’s major at Pinehurst No.2.

Which begged the question, how do you go about securing an audience with the great man and 18-time major champion?

“I was at the Memorial and I actually had a bit of lunch with him at Memorial,” McIlroy explained.

“I said, it would be great to sit down with you for a little bit and just talk about a few things. He said no problem at all. So I was (at Pinehurst) last Monday and Tuesday. I was supposed to go for dinner at Jack's house on Tuesday night, but I got in a little bit late, so decided to leave it until Wednesday morning and met him at his office in Palm Beach.

“He's been really generous with his time with me, offered any sort of advice that I wanted or needed. He's been great. And to have that at my disposal is, I mean, it has to be an advantage in some way. So it's been great.

“I don't ring him up, I ring his secretary up and say, I'd like to schedule a meeting, please. But it's been great to spend some time with him and I feel like I've got a really good rapport with him.”

***

One wonders what will be going through Jason Millard's mind when the US Open gets under way without him at Pinehurst No.2 tomorrow.

Millard had until last Saturday been part of the field for the 2014 US Open before calling a penalty on himself for an infraction he had committed five days earlier during sectional qualifying.

Millard, whose place will be taken by amateur Sam Love, had qualified in Memphis in his home state of Tennessee having shot a pair of 68s but he had actually incurred a penalty on his 27th hole of the day.

“I’m pretty sure I grounded my club in the bunker,” Millard said. “I didn’t see anything for sure but I felt something and I saw a small indentation. It happened so fast, I really don’t know 100 per cent but deep down, I believe I did. I couldn’t find peace about it. For five days, I practiced and I couldn’t get it off my mind.

“It’s heart-breaking but what I was feeling in my heart didn’t feel right. It’s the right decision and I am sticking with it.”

The self-imposed penalty earned the Tennessee golfer a disqualification from his national championship as well as the praise of all those who cherish golf's ongoing gift for being, by and large, a self-policing sport.

World number five Matt Kuchar was certainly impressed when he was told about the incident.

“It's part of the game and one of the amazing things about the game and a testament to the type of people that play the game of golf,” Kuchar said. “It's a sport like no other. I'm always glad to be part of it. I always think that one of those things that I'm glad I chose the sport of golf to play as my profession.”

***

Don't get Kuchar started on the Rules of Golf, though. The conundrum at Pinehurst this week concerns what exactly constitutes a bunker as opposed to a native area, which consist of local scrub, wire grass bushes and most pertinently. ill-defined patches of sand that look like bunkers.

The whole thing perplexes the American who said: “Unfortunately, I think it's a nasty thing here and a nasty thing about the game of golf, it's one of the bad things about the game, and I love the game, but the rules are so complicated.

“Here I am, I play the game for a living, and you could stump me on 100 different rules situations. It's just a very complicated game, I wish there was an easier way, I wish there was a simpler set of rules, clearer definition of things. I think the nature of the game, it just throws so many complicated issues that it's a complicated rule system. I think it's one of the difficult things about the game of golf and one of the few bad things about the game is how difficult the rules are.”

Getting back to those pesky native areas, here's Kuchar's take on how the land lies.

“There are bunkers within waste bunkers. Those definitions of the bunkers within the waste bunkers sometimes get a little blurry. So I think it's too bad for the game that every group is going to require a walking scorer to tell you, you can ground your club here, you can't ground your club here. That's too bad, but we'll deal with it.

“We will have walking scorers or walking rules officials, we'll have officials to be able to give that definition. I think it's too bad that it's got to be that way, but you know, we're all here at the US Open and we'll deal with it.”

***

Back to Rory, who was asked if he missed the injured Tiger Woods at this week's US Open.

“I'm sad. I miss him, yes,” came McIlroy's reply, dripping with sarcasm.

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