Saturday 22 September 2018

'I feel as prepared as I ever have' - Rory McIlroy upbeat as he aims for Grand Slam

Rory McIlroy =walks up the 11th fairway during the second day of practice
Rory McIlroy =walks up the 11th fairway during the second day of practice

Phil Casey

A buoyant Rory McIlroy feels he is in the best shape possible as he attempts to win the Masters and complete the career grand slam.

McIlroy has finished in the top 10 at Augusta National in each of the last four years, although he has not truly contended for the title since blowing a four-shot lead with a final round of 80 in 2011.

However, the 28-year-old comes into the week on the back of his first win in 18 months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and with some good omens potentially on his side.

"I feel as prepared as I ever have and I'm excited to hit that first tee shot on Thursday afternoon," McIlroy said. "I could not come here in better form and hopefully I can carry that into the next three days.

"I play well here and have just not played well enough. Hopefully this is my week and I can get myself in there and grab it with both hands.

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"It's hard to believe it's my 10th Masters, but (Ben) Hogan and (Sam) Snead won on their 10th go. Arnold (Palmer) won his first Masters at 28. There's a lot of different comparisons you could make. But it's all really meaningless unless you go out there and actually do it."

McIlroy would join Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods as the only players to have won all four major titles if he can triumph on Sunday.

But he admits he will have to put such thoughts out of his mind and perfect a more aggressive approach to do so.

"It's hard to treat every week the same because every week isn't the same, but I think you have to embrace that," the Northern Irishman added. "You have to embrace and relish the opportunity that is put in front of you and go out and grab it.

I'm an avid fan of the history of the game and I know what a win here would mean and where that would put me in history alongside some of the greatest that have ever played this game, and that would be mean an awful lot to me.

"But have I to try and clear my head of that come Thursday morning and go out and play good golf, hit good golf shots, have good course management, hole putts. If you do that enough times, hopefully that score on Sunday evening's the lowest out of all 87 competitors and you walk away with something that you'll have for the rest of your life."

McIlroy has not broken 70 in the first round at Augusta since an opening 65 in 2011, when his current caddie Harry Diamond was watching on as a friend.

This year Diamond will be inside the ropes for the first time as the pair attempt to find the perfect combination of aggression and sensible course management.

"Sometimes I feel like I've given this golf course a little too much respect and that goes back to to what I was saying about being a slow starter," McIlroy said. "Last year I shot 72 in that really windy first day and Charley Hoffman had shot 65.

"I thought I played pretty well, but all of a sudden you're seven back with three rounds to go. So you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself to start off fast, but you want to be there or thereabouts after the first couple of days.

"I have gotten in my own way here before, but I think because I'm a little more comfortable on the golf course and comfortable in my game, I don't think that will happen this week."

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