Saturday 22 July 2017

Padraig Harrington - Rory McIlroy is piling the pressure on himself as he looks to complete Grand Slam

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 24: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 3rd hole of his match during round three of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at the Austin Country Club on March 24, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 24: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 3rd hole of his match during round three of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at the Austin Country Club on March 24, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Padraig Harrington believes Rory McIlory is putting huge pressure on himself to complete a career Grand Slam by winning The Masters this week, as he suggests the weight of expectation may could derail his hopes at Augusta.

McIlroy famously blew his chance to win The Masters after building up a four-shot lead heading into the final round in 2011 and even though he has since won The Open Championship, the US Open and the US PGA, he is still waiting to be presented with the iconic green jacket handed out to winners at Augusta.

McIlroy heads into this year’s Masters as one of the favourites, yet Harrington hopes his fellow Irishman’s desire to win the final major on his list will not deflect his focus from finding top form.

“Rory is very honest and open about that fact that this tournament means more to him than any other,” Harrington told Independent.ie.

“Some players might try and play down the significance of winning The Masters as it does put extra pressure on Rory, but the truth is this is the biggest deal in golf for him and he cannot escape from that.

“Who wants this kind of pressure? I guess we all do! I would love to be in position teeing it up at The Masters knowing I just need this one to complete the Grand Slam, but it is also an extra pressure that only he will be dealing with in the next few days.

“Rory could make his life a lot more simple by playing it down and insisting it is just another tournament, but he has made it clear it is anything but that in his mind.

“The minute the Masters finishes and he hasn’t won it, he is already turning his thoughts to trying to win the next one and he is in a unique position in that respect.

“Other players will target the three major that will follow in the coming months, but so much of Rory’s year is based around The Masters because no one else in the game is trying to complete a career Grand Slam at this moment and until he does it, people will talk about it and Rory will be thinking about it.

“This is a big deal for Rory. If he can complete the Grand Slam, it puts him on a different level in terms of the history of the game and he wants to be part of that.

“There is no bigger tournament in the game than The Masters and Rory is desperate to get himself on that very special list of winners.”

Harrington believes it is ‘only a matter of time’ before McIlroy claims his first green jacket, as he suggests all eyes will be on the Irishman at this year’s Masters.

While world No.1 Dustin Johnson is favourite to win the first major of 2017, Harrington is hoping we get a showdown between the two biggest names in golf on Sunday.

“He is good enough to win it and probably heads into this week as second favourite behind Dustin Johnson,” adds Harrington.

“We would all love to see Rory and Dustin heading into the final day leading the field and it would be interesting to see the two of them going at each other if they both bring the A-games with them to Augusta.

“There are six or seven guys who could win this week, but Rory and Dustin are the two who have the ability to take it away from everyone else in the field.

“When Tiger Woods was at his best, the name you looked for every time you finished your round when the big man to see where he was. If Tiger shot 65 in the first round, there was consternation in the locker room because people knew he was tough to beat when he was playing well.

“Rory and Dustin are in that camp now. Rory has proved he can hold on to a lead in majors and Dustin Johnson now looks like a guy who is better than the rest when he is on form. The two of them have that intimidation factor.”

Sky Sports will show all four days of The Masters live with Padraig Harrington joining its commentary team at Augusta.

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