ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy is one of the few top golfers pleased to see the heavy rain falling at Merion, the site for this week's U.S. Open.
While many of his opponents have bemoaned the arrival of the showers and the slower greens and softer fairways, McIlroy's mood perked up when he heard the forecast for more torrential weather.
Rather, the Northern Irishman thinks the conditions in Philadelphia could help his chances of winning, just as he did two years ago at a soaked Congressional.
"There might be a few similarities to the way Congressional played to the way this week's going to play," said McIlroy.
"It was soft then and it's obviously going to be soft again this week."
McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open by eight strokes with a record total of 16-under-par but failed to make the cut when he defended his title last year at the harder and faster Olympic Club, outside of San Francisco.
"I didn't really enjoy the Olympic Club last year," he said. "I much prefer this sort of golf.
"When you hit a shot and it doesn't bounce one way or the other. When you hit it and it stays where you think it's going to stay."
Despite his preference for softer ground, McIlroy said the Merion course, with its narrow, tiled fairways, would still present a tough challenge to everyone.
"You've still got to hit it on the fairway, it's still a pretty tight golf course," he said.
"When you do get it in the rough, you're not going to make birdies out of there.
"So you're going to have chances, but you're going to have some holes where it's going to be very difficult."
McIlroy won a second major last year with another eight-shot romp at the PGA Championships but has struggled this season, failing to win any tournaments.
The 24-year-old has felt the weight of expectation and had trouble adjusting to new clubs but said he was starting to make some improvements.
"Coming off the back of a great year last year, and guess expecting myself to emulate that or even try and do better, and it hasn't really happened so far," said McIlroy, the leading money winner on both the U.S. and European tours.
"I feel like it's close. I've been seeing a lot of positive signs in my game the last few weeks.
"But that's been the most difficult. You always want to go out and play well and you want to contend and win tournaments and I haven't done enough of that this year.
McIlroy said the strongest part of his game at the moment was his iron play, which could pay big dividends with Merion's greens expected to be receptive to pinpoint placement.
"It's dialed in," he said. "As long as I just put it on the fairway, I feel like I can take advantage of that."
Even though he has been out of form this season, McIlroy is still ranked number two in the world and placed in the same glamour group as Tiger Woods and Masters champion, Australia's Adam Scott.
"It's something that I'm excited about," said McIlroy.
"I like it because you're in a group like that there's a lot of buzz and a lot of atmosphere around it.
"It gets you focused from the first shot."
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Julian Linden)