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Not since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 has there been a back-to-back U.S. Open winner. And Olympic, historically more famous for the legends who lost than those who won, figures to give McIlroy its latest run.

A graveyard for champions, Olympic has hosted the national championship four times previously. It’s where Jack Fleck, Billy Casper, Scott Simpson and Lee Janzen were crowned; the runner-ups those years were Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Payne Stewart.

The world’s new No. 1 promised that there was far more pressure to perform a year ago than anything he will face entering this season’s second major.

McIlroy’s Master’s meltdown in 2011 _ when he entered the final round ahead by four strokes and finished 10 strokes behind winner Charl Schwartzel after carding an 80 _ had everybody wondering how Boy Wonder would respond. After winning the U.S. Open in record fashion for his first major, life is far less stressful now for the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland.

“It makes people view you a little differently,” he said. “Maybe gives you a little more respect, you’re sort of part of the club.”

Becoming a member of Olympic’s exclusive major championship club won’t be easy.

More than half of the holes have dog legs, including four where the fairways _ many some of the most narrow anywhere _ will go in opposite directions. Eight of the 14 holes with approach shots have unleveled lies.

The elevation, while not changing as some might expect with San Francisco’s unending hills in the backdrop, could still prove particularly perplexing. The front nine will play at a par 34 and the back nine a par 36, and controlling speeds and position will be paramount.

“There’s not a player in the field who can’t curve it both ways,” Davis said. “The trick is, can they do it when it counts?”


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