Friday 20 July 2018

Rory McIlroy: Masters win would set me apart from my rivals

McIlroy knows he has the game to win Green Jacket

‘I feel like I’d set myself apart from the guys that are playing here this week,’ said Rory McIlroy at Augusta yesterday at the prospect of becoming just the sixth golfer to complete a career Grand Slam. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
‘I feel like I’d set myself apart from the guys that are playing here this week,’ said Rory McIlroy at Augusta yesterday at the prospect of becoming just the sixth golfer to complete a career Grand Slam. Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Thoroughly modern Rory McIlroy looks to join the giants of golf by completing a career Grand Slam of Major titles at Augusta National this week.

Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods secured their place in history by winning the four Majors at least once in their career.

McIlroy, with a US Open, two US PGA Championships and the 2014 Open Championship safely secured, yearns to fill the gap in his already-impressive list of honours by donning the Green Jacket.

He lives the life of a modern multi-millionaire and enjoys all the trappings of wealth which are available to elite players, but McIlroy has an eye to the past, and knows the scale of the achievement which a victory here would represent.

At the very least, it would elevate him ahead of his peers and particularly his closest rivals, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, as the game's acknowledged 'Big Three'.

"I would certainly think so. To be only one of six people to do it, I feel like I'd set myself apart from definitely the guys that are playing here this week. Obviously Phil (Mickelson) has a chance to do that when he goes to the US Open, as well.

"Yeah, it's something that I'd obviously be very proud of and something that I feel would set me apart.

"But there's a lot of golf to be played before that, and a lot of talking to be done, and a lot of bad bounces and good bounces and lip‑outs and everything. So we'll see what happens over the next few days," said McIlroy.

As long as he rocks up to Augusta each year without having a Green Jacket in the locker room, the Irish golfing hero accepts he will carry a burden of expectation, not least from within himself.

He knows he has the game to win. He knows the course well enough now after seven appearances in the Masters. He just needs to get the job done.

McIlroy does not flinch from the facts. He embraces them.

"Yeah, definitely. I feel like I'm a good enough player. I feel like I've got everything I need to become a Masters champion. But I think each and every year that passes that I don't, it will become increasingly more difficult.

"So there's no time like the present to get it done," he said.

The world No 3 has come so far in a decade that by any standards, surely he is destined to take yet another step forward in an illustrious career.

Just ten years ago, McIlroy, aged 16, did a second West of Ireland/Irish Close championship double. In 2005, he had become the youngest winner of those venerable GUI 'Majors'.

At the ripe old age of 26, the only surprise is that he has not yet won the Masters, not least to himself.

"This is one I wish I caught earlier I guess, I had a chance.


I always thought that the PGA Championship, and my record through the PGA Championship is the one that I excel in because of the way the golf course is set up, and the type of golf courses that they go to.

"I never thought that the US Open would be the first one just because of the way they usually set that up.

"The week that I won at Congressional, it wasn't really like a US Open. It was more like a PGA Championship type course.

"But here, I've got a great game for here. I hit it high. I can land the ball soft. I've got decent touch around the greens. The only thing that's probably held me back in my career and here is putting.

"You would think that this was a golf course that I can definitely win on here, I know that. I just haven't quite been able to get myself over the hurdle.

"But am I surprised that this is the last one left? Probably, yeah," he said.

McIlroy plays in the final group out on the course tomorrow, starting at 2.01pm local time (7.01pm Irish) alongside Martin Kaymer and Bill Haas.

It would suit him to have got his Masters bid under way earlier in the day, so the schedule has to be adjusted to suit the tee time arrangements.

A lie-in, Rory?

"I'm not much of a sleeping‑in sort of person. I'll get up and I'll probably go to the gym, and I'll just do everything that I can to get ready for the day.

"Yeah, it becomes a long enough day. But I guess as well on a Thursday morning, you're really just wanting to get here and get out and play, so there's probably going to be a little bit of anticipation.

"But look, I'm in the Masters field, and they can put me off at 6 o'clock in the evening and I'll still get around and play, so I'll be alright," he said.

McIlroy opted out of the Par 3 contest today and revealed that was partly to do with the superstition that the winner of this fun contest has never won the Green Jacket.

"I guess it's more of a superstition thing than anything else. In 2011, I didn't play the Par 3 and that was my best chance to win the Masters.

"It's more like I've had great times at the Par 3 tournament and had fun. It's a great day for the patrons to go down there and have fun, and for the kids to get autographs. And I've played it the last few years.

"This year, I just wanted to change it up a little bit and maybe just get away from the spotlight a little bit.

"It doesn't mean that I'm not going to play it again. It's a fantastic event and one I'm sure I'm going to play in the future," he said.

The down-time will be filled by some gym sessions and, would you believe, a jigsaw and games of Monopoly.

Irish Independent

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