Friday 21 July 2017

McIlroy turns focus to US Open after taking Augusta positives

Rory McIlroy has now played the Masters three times since the Slam became possible by
his Open victory in 2014. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has now played the Masters three times since the Slam became possible by his Open victory in 2014. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy has a year to go before the inevitable career Grand Slam speculation ramps up ahead of next year's Masters.

That has to be something of a relief, although he left Augusta being reminded that the previous Grand Slam achievers - Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods - got the fourth leg of the Slam completed by their third attempt.

McIlroy has now played the Masters three times since the Slam became possible by his Open victory in 2014.

Next year will be his fourth attempt to join the illustrious ranks of Green Jacket winners in his 10th Masters appearance.

"I feel like every time I tee it up here I have a real good chance to win," he said after Sunday's 69 earned him a joint-seventh finish. "My record over the past four years sort of reflects that in terms of being in the top 10.

"Top 10s right now isn't good enough, but it's going in the right direction. Every time I come back here I feel like I have more and more of a chance to win."

The world No 2 will shelve his Augusta ambitions and looks forward to the rest of the campaign, particularly the next three Majors, starting with the US Open at Erin Hills in June.

"Erin Hills is an unknown for everyone, but Birkdale is one of the best Open Courses on the roster.

"We're going to Quail (Hollow) for the PGA and I've had success there in the past, so nothing but positives ahead, and my game feels in good shape," he said.

"It's just a matter of working hard and putting myself in position to win. I've turned my focus to getting ready for the US Open in June and trying to add to my Major tally there."

In the meantime, McIlroy takes a four-week break for his wedding to Erica Stoll and their honeymoon. He will be back in action at The Players Championship in Sawgrass from May 11-14.

"It would have been nice to walk down the aisle in the Green Jacket," he said.

"We're very excited. It's a great time in our lives, and it's all about that over the next couple of weeks.

"I'll come back at the Players refreshed and a married man, and start a new chapter in my life."

Shane Lowry's Masters ended in disappointment when he missed the cut by a shot on Friday as he followed his battling opening 72 in rough conditions with a 79.

"I feel like I played 26 holes like one of the best golfers in the world this week, and I played ten like one of the worst," was his verdict.

His aim now is to get his game back on track for the business end of the season.

Lowry is 66th in the world rankings and will hope for a bounce-back display in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links which starts on Thursday.

Graeme McDowell, a former winner of the tournament, is in the field. Seamus Power is eighth alternate.

Irish Independent

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