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Rory McIlroy - 'Embracing patience' key to winning U.S. Open - ESPN

PINEHURST, N.C. — Rory McIlroy isn't afraid to say the quiet part out loud.

«Obviously,» McIlroy said Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference, «getting my hands on a fifth major has taken quite a while.»

It has been over 10 years since McIlroy has hoisted a major championship trophy, which means every major he participates in features a nearly identical preamble of questions about whether the four-time major winner can finally break the drought.

«I'm really proud of my body of work over the past 15 years and everything that I have achieved, whether it be season-long titles or individual tournaments or majors,» McIlroy said. «I'm more confident than ever that I'm right there, that I'm as close as I've ever been.»

Over the last 10 majors, McIlroy has seven top-10 finishes, two runner-ups and only one missed cut. Perhaps even more impressive is how McIlroy shifted his fate at U.S. Opens in particular. After missing the cut in three straight U.S. Opens from 2016 to 2018, the two-time winner has had five straight top-10 finishes in the event, including a runner-up last year in Los Angeles.

Despite not winning a major, McIlroy's game has been sharpened and his approach has also evolved. What he says he would have called «boring» golf in his younger years has now become his go-to stylistic choice at U.S. Opens.

«I would say embracing the difficult conditions, embracing the style of golf needed to contend at a U.S. Open, embracing patience,» McIlroy said. «Explosiveness isn't going to win a U.S. Open. It's more methodically building your score over the course of four days and being okay with that. Honestly, it's just more of a reframing of a mindset than anything else.»

Experience — and coming up just short at majors —