Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy believes missing the cut in the US Open could prove a blessing in disguise ahead of his first appearance in the French Open since 2010.
Despite getting off to a brilliant start, McIlroy could only add a second round of 71 to his opening 77 at Oakmont a fortnight ago to miss his first cut in a major championship since the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
That ended a run of nine straight top-25 finishes in majors, but the 27-year-old is confident he can continue the trend of using such setbacks as a springboard to future success.
“Muirfield in 2013 was the lowest point I’ve ever been at in my professional career, but sometimes you need these setbacks to reassess things and think about what you need to do to move forward,” McIlroy said. “I’ve worked with Michael (Bannon, his coach) a lot last week on bad habits that crept into my game.
“We started it Friday afternoon at the US Open, had a good range session there. I’m not one to try and tinker with things throughout a tournament, especially a major, but I sort of had no choice. I needed to try and do something.
“We’ve continued on that road and try to put things right, and it’s still a work in progress. But it (missing the cut) might have been a blessing in disguise, just because I need to work on a few things. I’d fallen into a few bad habits, but I’m gradually trying to get myself out of it.”
McIlroy famously won his first major title in the 2011 US Open just two months after collapsing to a closing 80 in the Masters after taking a four-shot lead into the final round at Augusta National.
And after struggling to adapt to new equipment throughout 2013, the world number four bounced back to win four times in 2014, including major championships in the Open and US PGA.
“You need to use the setbacks to learn and grow and move forward,” McIlroy added. “I felt like I’ve always used setbacks well. I’ve always learned from my mistakes and I think it’s been one of the great things about my career that any time I’ve had a setback, I’ve usually come back pretty well. There’s no reason why I can’t do that again.
“It gives you a lot of determination and motivation to come back and be better and be stronger and play better. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m trying to do. Try to use those disappointments as fuel for the fire going forward and hopefully, as I said, I can get to where I want to in my golf swing and the way I’m playing and have a good run this summer.”
McIlroy finished a shot outside a play-off the last time he contested the French Open and has opted to return to Le Golf National instead of contesting this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, an event he also won in 2014.
The European Tour responded to the clash of dates by withdrawing its sanction of the WGC event just two days after Shane Lowry won it last August, meaning money won there will not count for Ryder Cup points or towards the Race to Dubai.
And to encourage the likes of McIlroy to choose Paris over Akron, the 100th French Open is also offering increased prize money and extra Ryder Cup points, as well as counting as two of the five tournaments outside majors and WGC events required for European Tour membership.