Monday 19 August 2019

Rory McIlroy: My heart will be racing on the first tee

McIlroy insists he can 'completely switch off' from Masters pressure

A relaxed Rory McIlroy catches a golf ball on the practice range during a practice round prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament
A relaxed Rory McIlroy catches a golf ball on the practice range during a practice round prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament

Karl MacGinty

Cool hand Rory McIlroy envisaged no problem sleeping last night on the cusp of history.

Today at Augusta National, arguably the most iconic and exciting venue in golf, McIlroy conceded he'll have butterflies as he prepares to hit his opening tee shot at the Masters.

Yet the Holywood star insisted it had nothing to do with the prospect of trying to complete only the sixth career Grand Slam in golf history. He always feels charged-up heading into the Masters.

"I think it's probably only the first tee shot of a tournament these days that I still get nervous at," he conceded. "You get nervous and your heart races a little bit."

Yet he looked forward to the usual "six or seven good hours of sleep" in Augusta last night.

The eyes of the world may be on McIlroy when he's on the grounds of Augusta National but once he left last night, everything was geared towards "keeping the excitement at a suitable level and not to get too anxious".

"When I'm here at Augusta National, it's all business but once I get back to the house we have rented, I just completely switch off. I've got family and friends over," explained McIlroy, confirming that Grand Slam chat is banned in the house. "Yeah, definitely. No golf chat whenever I get off the premises."

Should McIlroy become the first Irishman to land the Green Jacket, he'll join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods by winning all four Majors.

Nicklaus, who had a stunning hole-in-one in yesterday's par three competition, has six career victories in the Masters and advised McIlroy that patience will be his greatest virtue.

"I talked with Rory last week and I said 'you've got a big week coming up, just be patient," Nicklaus revealed. "You've got a lot of years ahead, just be patient with what you're doing this year and you'll be fine.

"If you look at Augusta National, you've got half a dozen shots that could send you out looking for an airline ticket home. But if you play those shots well and be aggressive as you want with the rest, you can do pretty well.

"You're not going to get hurt in the centre of the greens at Augusta. I always played for the centre of the green and just sort of inched my ball towards where the hole was."

The Par 3 tournament itself was won by Kevin Streelman.

Meanwhile, Woods is being lined up for an appearance at the 2016 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

In a quid pro quo arrangement, World No 1 McIlroy, who is patron of the event through his charitable foundation, will appear in Tiger's own Hero World Challenge.

The venue for 2016 has yet to be arrangement but The K Club looks the favourite.

Read more: McIlroy has all tools to be Mater and commander

Read more: Is this the year that an Irishman will wear the Green Jacket?

Read more: 'Nervous' Niall carries the bag for McIlroy at Masters

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