McIlroy vows to box clever and 'not be too greedy' on par fives in bid to land Green Jacket
SO great is the challenge posed by Augusta National that Rory McIlroy believes it will take a win at the Masters to establish him as a 'complete golfer'.
McIlroy is golf's undisputed No 1 but with admirable honesty admits he needs to control his natural instincts and box more cleverly to don that Green Jacket next week.
His game is such a perfect fit for Augusta, Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is in the majority when he insists: "It's only a matter of time before Rory wins there."
Yet the Holywood star's form in six visits to the Masters doesn't quite fit this profile.
Though he led through 63 holes before that unforgettable Sunday collapse in 2011, McIlroy had to wait until last April to achieve his first top-10 at Augusta - he tied eighth.
It's not by chance that the Masters is the only Major title which so far has eluded McIlroy.
To complete a career Grand Slam, he says: "You've had to be able to win in different conditions on different golf courses and different set-ups. If you can win all four, you're a complete golfer.
"I feel the Majors I have won (2011 US Open at Congressional, 2012 PGA at Kiawah, 2014 Open at Hoylake and PGA at Valhalla) have been on big golf courses.
"Someone recently asked me what'd be my ideal set-up for a Major and I replied '18 500-yard par fours'," he smiles. "That'd be ideal. . . and Augusta isn't like that. There's a lot of touch, a lot of finesse required around there.
"That's the one thing I'm still trying to learn and get better at. It's that style of golf, managing my way around golf courses a little bit better. Maybe just having a little bit more imagination, I think that's the thing I want or need to have to call myself a complete golfer."
McIlroy believes his performance on Augusta's par-fives is key, and the figures bear him out. Last year, for example, he was a pithy even-par for those 16 holes, while Bubba Watson played them in eight-under. Pointedly, Rory was eight behind the winner on Sunday evening.
"I need to play the par-fives better, be more efficient on them," McIlroy says. "I've got to curb my natural enthusiasm. Not go for pins but play into those greens with imagination and see things differently. Play for fours and try not to be greedy.
"With a long-iron in hand, I naturally think about trying to hit it close and give myself an eagle chance. Maybe I need to play more of a percentage game, play for the birdie and get out of there. It's still a shot gained."
At the Masters, McIlroy admits: "Sometimes I'll hit a great shot but I'll finish eight feet the wrong side of the hole, take two putts and make par. Whereas if you're 20 feet the other side of the hole, you've a much better chance of birdie.
"Again, it's just about managing my way around the golf course and using a little more imagination.
"The big thing for me is to take advantage of the par-fives. Because of my length, I can reach all of them without even hitting driver. Just be a little smarter. If I could play the par fives in 12-under next week, that'd be a good return!"
In fact, that's the material of which Green Jackets are made.