If Rory McIlroy wanted to kill some time before he teed off again in the US Open at 3.50pm he could do worse than look at Jack Nicklaus’ website.
“I like his moxie – I suppose that is the right word. I like the way he carries himself,” said the 18-major winner of Northern Ireland’s young golfing star, who took a record-equalling six-shot lead into the third round of the event at Congressional near Washington.
“We had lunch during the Honda Classic last year. We sat for about an hour and half and we talked about his game, the things to do and how to finish golf tournaments.”
At the time McIlroy had won only the Dubai Desert Classic in his professional career, but two months later he captured his first PGA Tour title in America with a closing course record 62.
“We talked about the things I did when I was playing. He was worried about that he couldn’t finish and couldn’t win. I said not to worry about it.
“Instead of shooting 36 or 37 the last nine holes one day you’ll shoot 32 or 33 and win.
“Keep playing; keep your nose to the grindstone. You don’t have to try to push something to happen. One day it will just happen, if you keep working at it and trying.
“Just believe in yourself, play within yourself, understand yourself, understand what you can do, and do what you can do. That was the basic message.
“And when he won at Charlotte a few weeks later I dropped him a note and said that I told you it would happen – but 62, that’s ridiculous. That is really making it happen!
“When I saw him at Muirfield Village (two weeks ago) I hadn’t seen him since The Masters.
“I just said ’I’m sure that you learned from your mistakes and what happened. Don’t worry about that. We all make mistakes’.
“All good players have to make mistakes before they can have successes. Sometimes it’s better to have mistakes because if you only have success all of a sudden if you make mistakes you can’t figure out why you made them.
“Pressure is what you live for – you want to have pressure on you. You don’t want to come down to the last hole needing to make par to finish 20th.
“You want to come down to the last hole with pressure on you to win. Everyone is going to put pressure on you.
“If you are going to be successful you’re going to have pressure, so you just have to learn to live with that, deal with that, and to handle it yourself. And we all handle it differently.
“I would hope he learned from his mistakes. I remember we did talk about (Tom) Watson and the mistakes he made early in his career and how he came back and learned how to win.
“I did the same thing at the British Open in 1963 at Lytham (he lost by a shot after going in a bunker on the last). I figured out why I did those things, what I tried to do and shouldn’t have done.
“I have kicked myself for almost 50 years for blowing that tournament, but I knew why I did it.
“That was my question to him. You made some mistakes and I hope you figured out why you made those mistakes, why you did something that didn’t follow what you normally do.”