I don't care about the US Open or Open - Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy insists that the Masters is the biggest tournament in the world and that he can't let fear of failure stop him in his quest for that elusive Green Jacket.
As he prepares to celebrate his 29th birthday tomorrow, the Co Down man admitted ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship that his wife had to drag him outside to get some daylight and fresh air after his latest Masters disappointment.
He even revealed that he read two self-help books - 'The Chimp Paradox' and 'Essentialism' - and caught himself occasionally staring off into space, thinking back to the shots that cost him the Major he covets more than any other.
But even now, as he prepares to play eight events in 11 weeks, including the US Open, the Irish Open and The Open, his thoughts are always drifting towards that second Sunday in April.
"The Masters has now become THE biggest golf tournament in the world and I am comfortable saying that," McIlroy said, dismissing the pressure of trying to complete the career Grand Slam as the biggest hurdle he has to clear.
"I don't care about the US Open or the Open Championship. It is the biggest golf tournament in the world; the most amount of eyeballs; the most amount of hype; the most everything is at Augusta.
"To me, it is the most special tournament that we play and the one everyone desperately wants to win.
"It's tough to win. And I thought Patrick (Reed) did a fantastic job on Sunday holding it together because he didn't have his best stuff. He made a couple of key putts coming in which really helped him.
"I don't think about the Grand Slam and what that means. For me, it's about being able to go and use the champions' locker room and all the other cool stuff that comes along with it."
He admits his latest Augusta hangover was not easy to nurse and that while he took his mind off golf by binge-watching TV shows like 'Billions', he stewed for days over not giving "a good account of myself on that last day".
"It was just the quiet moments when you are staring off into the distance and thinking about a certain shot or a certain putt," McIlroy revealed.
"So it got to the point where I needed to see a bit of daylight and get outside, go for walks and do my usual things.
"And then it sort of went away. And then your mind starts to focus on what's coming up."
McIlroy is focused now on getting a third win at the venue where he won the first of his 14 PGA Tour titles in 2010 and repeated the trick in 2015.
He's joined by Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power but also by five of the world's top 10 and 2007 Quail Hollow winner Tiger Woods, who tees it up in Charlotte for the first time since 2012 alongside Masters champion Reed and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who's been out with a wrist injury since January.
"I can't believe I am turning 29 in two days," McIlroy said, shaking his head. "It goes so quickly."
Even without a Green Jacket, he believes he's done more than he ever imagined but he's not afraid to go out and keep chasing his most elusive dreams.
"If you had asked me when I was turning 20 what I would like to have achieved in the next 10 years, I have basically done everything that I would have wanted to on that list," he said. "Maybe even more than that."
Set to play the Players Championship, the BMW PGA, the Memorial, the US Open, the Travelers and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open before heading to Carnoustie for The Open, he knows he can't shy away from putting his neck on the block again over the next 11 weeks.
"You can't be afraid of failure," he said when asked his advice for youngsters dealing with disappointments.
"You have to be willing to fail to be able to succeed. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, knowing that if you don't win, it's going to hurt, but if you do win, it's going to be that much better.
"The first thing is not being afraid of losing. There's no shame in that as long as you are learning from it and put it into practice next time."
Ready to win again, he said: "I have some great events to look forward to and my game is in good shape so I am looking forward to having the chance to win more tournaments."
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