It is not that Rory McIlroy will not care if he does not win this week’s US Open, to push his majorless run into its seventh year. It is just that he will not care as much.
This is entirely understandable as McIlroy, 31, celebrated the birth of his and wife Erica’s first child - daughter, Poppy - just two weeks ago. The Northern Irishman claims to be a dab hand at changing nappies - “I've made my hands dirty, put it that way” - but knows that his technique will be judged by all those who believe in the theory that a new baby gives the father a boost in the ensuing weeks.
“All I can think is that it just puts things in perspective a little bit,” he said. “Not that I think my career now doesn’t matter to me - I care about it very much. But at the same time, it makes the hard days a little easier to get over, and I’m a little more relaxed.
“This is a major and I've grown up my whole life dreaming of winning these tournaments, and that's not going to change, but if it doesn't quite happen, I can live with that and go home and be very happy and leave what's happened. Maybe that’s something that I haven't done so well in the past.”
The 31-year-old’s form guide points to him returning to Jupiter, Florida, on Sunday as a proud father rather than a proud five-time major champion. Since the restart, he has played nine events and his only top 10 finish was the limited field of 30 in the Tour Championship a fortnight ago.
There is still some hope as he stopped his US Open rot of three missed cuts in concession with a ninth last year at Pebble Beach. And, despite Paul McGinley his countryman and former Ryder Cup captain, pointing out that he has never won on a tough course, McIlroy claimed on Tuesday to love the famous AW Tillinghast design.
“This is my first time here and after what everybody told me I thought it would be impossible,” the world No 4 said. “But I love what I see. It’s very, very fair.”