LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I'm not ready to pick the player that I believe will win the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Sunday, but Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is.
"That guy right there," Auriemma said when I asked for his pick Tuesday.
He was pointing at Rory McIlroy, the world's top-ranked player, as McIlroy pounded drive after drive after drive 300 yards or more.
"The zone he's in right now, how could you pick anybody else?" said Auriemma, who knows as much any anybody about the challenge of winning when you are expected to win. (He's here as the guest of a friend, but not Louisville coach Jeff Walz.)
I'll add this – McIlroy talked like the most confident guy on the grounds during his media session Tuesday.
Here are 5 reasons that Auriemma should be confident that McIlroy will win his second consecutive major:
1. McIlroy says he's in The Zone.
"When you talk about my game being in a certain zone," he said, "mentally I'm in a good place on the course and staying in the present. That's really why you're seeing the sort of golf that I'm playing over the last few weeks."
2. McIlroy is not obsessed with praise he's getting.
"I'm not necessarily sure you can call (his recent run) an era or the start of an era," he said. "But I'm just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute and I want to try and continue that for as long as possible.
"People can say what they want to say. That's fine. But I can't read too much into it.
"I just need to continue to practice hard and play hard and play well, and if I do that, then you know, that's all I can do and try not to read too much of the stuff that's being written, because if you read everything that was being written I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament."
3. McIlroy has worked on adding more thunder to his drives.
"I'm definitely hitting it longer over the past couple of years," he said, "I've started to work harder in the gym and I've gotten stronger in certain areas of my body, which I have needed to."
4. McIlroy's play at the Bridgestone Invitational last weekend increased his confidence.
"I hit 16 greens on Sunday," he said. "So to hit 16 greens in regulation on a Sunday when you need to give yourself chances for birdies to come from behind, trying to win, that gives me confidence that my ball-striking is in a place like that, where I can go and give myself basically a birdie opportunity on every hole."
5. McIlroy can place his tee shots in multiple directions.
"I'm very comfortable hitting a straight shot or hitting it left-to-right," he said. "I hit a lot of tee shots last week left-to-right. That's when I know I'm swinging it well, when I can get it back down the plane, and I'm comfortable hitting that left-to-right shot."