Jack Nicklaus warns Rory McIlroy over Green Jacket ‘stigma’ ahead of Masters
"Do not allow the missing Green Jacket to turn into a stigma."
That was the message from Jack Nicklaus to Rory McIlroy here last night as the Ulsterman concluded his preparations for his second attempt at completing the career Grand Slam.
Nicklaus is one of only five players to have won all four Majors and, in his time, watched champions of the calibre of Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson fall one short.
The Golden Bear has also become something of a mentor to McIlroy and plainly fears that the Masters could develop into an insurmountable mental barrier if he leaves it too long to win at Augusta.
"It is becoming a stigma with the press, and each year he will be asked about it more and more," Nicklaus said. "I was fortunate that I got it out of the way early and did not have to deal with it. I was 26 when I won the Open and that freed me up, knowing that I had won them all."
McIlroy is now 26 himself, and after finishing eighth and fourth here in the last two years, he is, as they like to say in the States, "trending".
Nicklaus believes that McIlroy's putter holds the key.
"His long game is suited to the course, no doubt," Nicklaus said. "But the thing which has held Rory back here is his putting. These are the most difficult set of greens the professionals probably encounter and if you're not holing the putts it is not going to happen here."
McIlroy's form on the greens has improved since switching his grip last month to left hand under right. However, the statistics still do not make comfortable reading for him - he languishes in 137th on three-putt avoidance chart. (© Daily Telegraph, London)