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Woods & McIlroy hoping familiarity will breed form

ESPN staff
June 27, 2012
Tiger Woods is looking to bounce back from his disappointing US Open weekend © PA Photos
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This year was supposed to be the year where Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods fought out a generation game at golf's major championships yet, halfway through the year, neither have come close to victory.

Woods was in halfway contention at the recent US Open, but other than that neither has really achieved anything in the majors to build on their respective PGA Tour triumphs so far in 2012.

With half the season passed, both are looking to kick-start their campaigns by returning to familiar haunts. McIlroy is going home to play in the Irish Open, while Woods is hosting the AT&T National at its familiar setting, Congressional Country Club.

Woods - who we can assume counts KJ Choi and Nick Watney among his friends, after choosing to play the first two rounds with them this week - is looking to build on his almost-good performance at Olympic Club, but intimated that the swing changes he has been working on with current coach Sean Foley have still to be completely bedded in.

"I would say certainly my short game has been something that has taken a hit, and it did the same thing when I was working with Butch [Harmon] and the same thing when I was working with Hank [Haney]," Woods noted. "During that period of time, my short game went down, and it's because I was working on my full game.

"Eventually I get to a point where the full game becomes very natural feeling and I can repeat it day after day, and I can dedicate most of my time to my short game again."

The underlying point, then, is that Woods still does not feel like his long game is quite there yet; certainly not to the point where he can resuume primary focus on his work from within 150 yards.

McIlroy, meanwhile, is back in Ireland for a bit of links golf prior to the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. If nothing else, his presence has had an impact on ticket sales: the appearance of 'Rors' - along with the rest of what has been dubbed 'Mount McRushmore' (Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington) has resulted in the event at Portrush becoming basically the first regular event sell-out in European Tour history.

The big criticism levelled at McIlroy recently has been his lack of commitment to practice, as he has seemed to spend less time in the range in order to spend more with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki - at the expense of his game.

Those criticisms certainly appear warranted, but McIlroy is very much a rhythm and feel player - perhaps, after missing four of his last five cuts, a confidence-boosting performance on home turf will get his swing back in the right groove (even if, at the Open last year, he claimed links golf was far from his favourite).

"I feel like I've made a lot of progress and I'm really looking forward to this week and hopefully giving myself a chance to win here," McIlory said. "I'm feeling good and had some really good practice over the last 10 days and my game feels in really good shape."

Both players need to get their seasons back on track. Will familiarity breed better results? This week will give us the answer.

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