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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Rory McIlroy hails Jordan Spieth's 'resilience' as they prepare to do battle at US PGA Championship

Spieth's dramatic Open victory at Royal Birkdale means he needs to win the final major of the year to become the youngest player - and only the sixth ever - to complete a career grand slam.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from the sixteenth tee during a practice round for the 99th PGA Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Erik Lesser / EPA
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from the sixteenth tee during a practice round for the 99th PGA Championship golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Erik Lesser / EPA

Rory McIlroy believes Jordan Spieth has a priceless ability to dig himself out of seemingly hopeless situations as the pair prepare to do battle for the US PGA Championship.

Spieth's dramatic Open victory at Royal Birkdale means he needs to win the final major of the year to become the youngest player - and only the sixth ever - to complete a career grand slam.

And although McIlroy is among the favourites to win on the back of his improved form and superb record at Quail Hollow, the world No 4 knows Spieth will be tough to beat.

"He has got that knack," McIlroy said. "I call it resilience. I don't know if there's a better word to describe what it is that he has. But he has got this resilience where he gets himself in positions in tournaments where you don't think he can come back from, and he does. It's awfully impressive."

Spieth took a three-shot lead into the final round at Birkdale but found himself one behind Matt Kuchar after a fifth bogey of the day on the 13th, which followed a wild drive, penalty drop and 20-minute delay before playing his third shot from the practice range.

However, the 24-year-old Texan almost holed his tee shot on the par-three 14th as he played the next four holes in five-under par to finish three ahead of a shellshocked Kuchar.

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McIlroy added: "You can stand and hit the shots that he was hitting for those last five holes at the Open on the range, no problem. But being able to do it under those circumstances, under the pressure, that's what makes him so good.

"Resilience, mentally tough, strong, whatever you want to call it. That's his biggest asset. Being able to forget about a bad shot and move on to the next one, that's his greatest weapon."

McIlroy won his fourth major title at the 2014 US PGA but has failed to genuinely contend for another since, despite a share of fourth place in the Open being his sixth top-10 finish.

But the 28-year-old Northern Irishman could hardly hope for a better venue than Quail Hollow to end his barren streak, having won his first PGA Tour title here in 2010 and cruising to a seven-shot victory in 2015, which featured a course record of 61 in the third round.

"Obviously I haven't won this year and there's been a few components to that, injury-wise, changing equipment and stuff. It has been a bit of a transitional year," McIlroy said.

"But I feel like everything's settled. My health is pretty much where it needs to be so I just want to go out there and play well this week."

The US PGA will move from August to May from 2019, with the Players Championship switching to March and the BMW PGA Championship moving from May to September.

''From a player's perspective, to now have one really big tournament every month from March and to have the FedEx Cup most likely at the end of August or start of September, it just has a better flow to it, I think," McIlroy said.