McIlroy senses Grand Slam glory at Masters

2016-04-03 08:49
Rory McIlroy (AFP)

Washington - At just 26-years-old it's clearly far too early to talk about Rory McIlroy having a Masters jinx, but he knows that each year that goes by without him donning the Augusta winner's green jacket will only crank up the pressure on him.

To some extent, the Northern Irishman's own precociousness is to blame for this situation, with him having won the US Open, British Open and PGA Championship by the age of just 25.

That left him on the cusp of becoming just the sixth player in the history of the game to win all four majors - after Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

The only other active player who has that tantalising prospect dangling before him is Phil Mickelson and the American's increasingly heart-breaking efforts to finally win a US Open (he has been runner-up six times) will no doubt spur McIlroy on further to get that first Masters win under his belt early in his career before it becomes a monkey on his back.

He has already come close once before - in 2011 when he took a four-shot lead into the final round only to shoot 80 in a spectacular meltdown that left him in a tie for 15th.

Last year, when he had his first crack at the career Grand Slam, he posted his best finish yet at fourth, but that was due to a superb closing round of 66 that hoisted him up the leaderboard. He was never really in contention.

On that occasion he voiced satisfaction that he is getting closer to pulling it all together at Augusta National and that he remains confident of winning there one day.

This year, McIlroy's form has been steady if not spectacular and a run, as defending champion, into the World Matchplay semi-finals, boosted his confidence.

"I do feel as though I am similar to where I was with my game last year as I am very happy with my game as everything feels pretty good," he said at Austin.

"Compared to a year ago and all the hype of winning the Grand Slam, I already feel a little more mellow and a lot more chilled.

"This year you have the attention spread between Jordon (Spieth) going back to defend and Jason (Day) winning for a second week in a row and also there's Adam (Scott) who has won at Augusta before and is coming off his back-to-back wins.

"So there's a lot more going on around others competing in the Masters this year already than the spotlight I found myself in a year ago."

In another move that could be seen as a way of relieving the pressure, McIlroy has decided to replicate his buildup to the 2011 tournament by opting not to play in the Wednesday Par-3 tournament.

"I'm not going to play the Par-3 contest this year as it's just too much hassle and it's a bit of a distraction," said the Ulsterman whose previous caddies have included former girlfriend and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and pop star Niall Horan.

"The year I had my best chance at Augusta, and that was in 2011 as I didn't play the Par-3 contest, so maybe the decision not to play it this year can work in my favour," he added.

Apart from the personal achievement, a win for McIlroy would make him the first Irishman to lift the Masters title and the first European since Jose-Maria Olazabal in 1999.

Read more on:    masters  |  rory mcilroy  |  golf

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