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PINEHURST, N.C. - The one thing Rory McIlroy wont lack heading into this U.S. Open is advice. In the few weeks since his breakup

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PINEHURST, N.C. - The one thing Rory McIlroy wont lack heading into this U.S. Open is advice. In the few weeks since his breakup with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, only some of it has been worth much. Gary Player told him to lay low. Jack Nicklaus told him not to be afraid to change the way he plays, even in the middle of a round. Smartly, he only followed up with one of them. "Do you just ring him up," a reporter asked about McIlroys budding relationship with Nicklaus, "and say, Im popping in?" "I dont ring him up," McIlroy chuckled, "I ring his secretary up and say, Id like to schedule a meeting, please. But its been great to spend some time with him. I feel like Ive got a really good rapport." The two had lunch in Florida a week after the Memorial, the PGA Tour stop where Nicklaus plays the gracious host but isnt shy about asking tough questions. Not about relationships, mind you, unless you count questions about where to slot the club at the top of the backswing. "He said to me, he goes, How the hell can you shoot 63 (in the first round) and then 78 (in the second)?" McIlroy recalled. "I said, I wasnt meaning to, Jack. Im trying not to." That began a conversation between the two on the subject of trust. Nicklaus told him the moment he sensed his swing was sliding off the rails in that second round, he would have made a change "right then and there." "The mental strength to be able to do that," McIlroy paused, still marveling at the idea. "Hopefully," he added a moment later, "some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week." Success came so fast for the 25-year-old Northern Irishman it was easy to assume hed mastered most of golfs lessons. But it took an old soul like Nicklaus to point out where some of the big gaps remained. When McIlroy wins, he usually wins big, running away from the field the way he did at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. What he has yet to prove is whether he has the patience and toughness to grind out victories, a trait that served Nicklaus and Tiger Woods well over decades. If nothing else, the back-and-forth with Nicklaus has put the idea in his head. "Its going to be a test of patience," McIlroy said about Pinehurst No. 2. "And I think I am better equipped than I was a few years ago. The U.S. Open I won was a very ... was abnormal. It was wet. It was low scoring. I havent won a tournament whenever its been like this. Thats why Im relishing the challenge. "Its conditions that I havent won in before and Id love to be able to prove to myself, but also prove to other people that I can win in different conditions. Its a great opportunity to do that this week." While Nicklaus will be McIlroys model this week, he hasnt ignored Players advice altogether. In the wake of his very public breakup with Wozniacki, he has lowered his social media profile and already won once. He concedes that balancing his public life he has with the private one he wants is an act hes still working on. "Its nice when you get out on the golf course because youve got five hours of youre just out there with your clubs, with your caddie, trying to shoot the best score possible," McIlroy said. "Thats the approach that Im sort of adopting from now until whenever." The conversation with Nicklaus appears to be taking hold. Much harder to learn will be the desire that catapulted Nicklaus to 18 major victories — the stubborn pride that made him back off a 4-footer on the last hole of a tournament he wasnt going to win even in the final years of his career, because it mattered to him to shoot 77 instead of 78. "Golf has sort of been a nice release for me the past few weeks. I just want to try to keep focused on that," McIlroy said. ___ Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. 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