The strategic reason Rory McIlroy doesn’t watch golf before he plays

Rory McIlroy celebrates after a shot at the U.S. Open

Rory McIlroy explained why he doesn't watch TV coverage before he plays.

David Cannon/Getty Images

With a 1:14 p.m. tee time on Thursday, Rory McIlroy could have been just like the rest of us that morning and watched golf at the U.S. Open for a few hours before getting ready for his own round.

In addition to passing some time, he could have gotten some insight on how Pinehurst No. 2 was playing in a difficult U.S. Open setup.

But he didn’t. He never does.

“No, I don’t like watching,” McIlroy said Thursday after his round. “I just don’t like watching coverage before I go out to play.”

He explained nothing more.

Conventional wisdom says, especially with a golf course that he hasn’t seen in competition in 10 years, it might have been wise to watch the early coverage to get a sense of which pins might cause trouble, which way certain greens break, what clubs guys are using off of different tees.

These are things McIlroy would have picked up in a practice round, but as Allen Iverson might interject here, we’re not talking about practice. Things are just different when the competition switch gets flipped on.

Of course, McIlroy’s strategy paid off Thursday as he posted a bogey-free 65, tying the U.S. Open Pinehurst scoring record and grabbing a share of the 18-hole lead with Patrick Cantlay.

In other words, it’s tough to poke holes in a successful strategy.

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On Friday, McIlroy’s day was reversed, as is typical. For the second round, his tee time was 7:29 a.m., and he posted a two-over 72 that will leave him at three under heading to the weekend, likely within a few shots of the lead.

But a reporter after the round still wanted to know exactly why McIlroy was so passionate about not watching tournament before he played. Turns out, McIlroy would rather trust what he sees on the course, rather than what he remembers from a situation that’s not the same as what he faces.

“I don’t like seeing where other guys are hitting it,” McIlroy explained. “I particularly don’t like when I can watch people hit putts on greens because then, whenever I have a similar putt on the golf course, I’m going off the memory of what I think I saw on TV instead of seeing it with my own eyes. I’d rather just not have that option at all.

“I’ve learned the hard way at times that I don’t need to be watching on the TV.”

So there you have it. But on Friday, with McIlroy having finished his round around 1 p.m. and plenty of golf left to be watched in the afternoon, he might end up acting like the rest of us after all.

“This afternoon I’ll probably tune in a little bit and watch,” he said.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at



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