SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Rory McIlroy has taken a different path to this year's U.S. Open, arriving on Long Island on June 3 and getting in plenty of golf at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and surrounding courses.
He picked a great location to visit if it were simply to add to his list of playing the country's best courses, but doing so close to a major championship is a bit of a different approach.
"For maybe five or six years, I never played fun golf," said McIlroy, 29, who has won four major championships, including the 2011 U.S. Open. "It was all to do with getting ready to play tournaments. I didn't understand people who went out and played a lot.
"But basically it's been since my dad [Gerry] became a member at Seminole [in South Florida] and I was able to go over and play a lot of golf with him that I really started to enjoy fun golf again and playing these different courses."
In addition to Shinnecock, which he has played several times heading into the U.S. Open, McIlroy also ventured to the National Golf Links of America, which borders Shinnecock, and to Friar's Head in nearby Baiting Hollow, New York.
That's quite a trio of courses. Shinnecock, which is hosting its fifth U.S. Open, is ranked fourth in Golf Digest's list of America's 100 greatest courses. Only Pine Valley, Augusta National and Cypress Point are rated higher.
National Golf Links is rated eighth, and Friar's Head is 19th. McIlroy also ventured to Garden City Golf Club in New York, which is ranked 46th. Seminole is ranked 13th.
"It's been fun,'' McIlroy said. "I think I played, from the start of Wentworth [the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship] to Memorial to last week, I played 18 out of 19 days. I took a day off Saturday to try and recharge the batteries.
"It's been a lot of fun. It's not a bad place to spend a couple of weeks in the summer.''
"I think it does put you in a different frame of mind,'' he said. "You're relaxed out there, and maybe that sort of bleeds in your mindset whenever you're here in a big championship. It's no different. I think that's the thing. If I've got a shot that I need to execute under pressure here this week, it's not different than playing that shot when I'm out there playing with my dad or buddies or whatever it is.
"Obviously there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you're going to play.''