Sunday 27 May 2018

Rory McIlroy eyeing green jacket after reeling in Jordan Spieth

Rory McIlroy, pictured, enjoyed a good finish in his quest to reel in Jordan Spieth (AP)
Rory McIlroy, pictured, enjoyed a good finish in his quest to reel in Jordan Spieth (AP)
Rory McIlroy, pictured, enjoyed a good finish to his second round at the Masters

Rory McIlroy believes Augusta National "owes" him a green jacket to complete the career grand slam after setting up a mouthwatering battle with defending champion Jordan Spieth.

McIlroy could have made the Masters his first major title when he took a four-shot lead into the final round in 2011, only to collapse to a closing 80 to finish 10 shots behind the winner Charl Schwartzel.

The 26-year-old bounced back to win the US Open two months later and the US PGA title in 2012, meaning victory in the Open at Hoylake in 2014 left him needing to win a green jacket to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four majors.

"I sort of feel that Augusta owes me something and I have come with that attitude," McIlroy told RTE after a second round of 71 in swirling winds left him just a shot behind Spieth, who struggled to a 74.

" I have come here to get something that I should have had a long time ago.

"You need to be so focused and in control of your emotions here. It's about not getting fazed and mentally I have been good the last couple of days. I need to keep that going for the next two days."

McIlroy's chances looked slim when he followed two early birdies with a double bogey on the fourth and bogeys on the fifth and 11th.

At that stage he was eight shots behind Spieth after the world number two birdied the first and third and threatened to turn the tournament into a procession for the second year running in his quest to join Jack Nicklaus, N ick Faldo and Tiger Woods in making a successful title defence.

However, Spieth who set records for the highest number of birdies (28) and lowest 36 and 54-hole totals in Masters history last year, then four-putted the fifth to run up a double bogey, bringing back unhappy memories of doing the same on the eighth hole in the final round of the Open at St Andrews last year.

A birdie on the eighth looked to have steadied the ship, but Spieth then bogeyed the ninth and 10th and was visibly - and audibly - annoyed at being timed for slow play as he wanted to wait for the wind to die down on his approach to the 11th.

Up ahead, McIlroy took full advantage with birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th and the fist pump when he saved par from the trees on the 18th told its own story.

Spieth birdied the 15th but then bogeyed the 16th and 17th and did well to save par from a bunker on 18, but the 74 was still his worst score in 10 rounds at Augusta by two shots.

McIlroy has outscored Spieth eight times out of the 12 they have played together, but admits he needs to ignore who he is playing with and the significance of what he is trying to achieve.

"It doesn't make a difference to me who it is up there," he added. " I want to win this golf tournament and I want to finish on the lowest score possible, and whoever that is ahead of me at that point, I just want to finish one better than that.

"I'm really trying to block that (the grand slam) out. It's another golf tournament I'm trying to win. I'm trying to beat guys on this leaderboard that I've beaten before, so I need to take confidence from that and know that I've been in this position before. Maybe not on this golf course, but I've been in this position before in big tournaments and been able to get the job done.

"Look, I know it's a very big weekend for me. I know that. But when I'm out there on the golf course, I just have to be completely 100 per cent focused on the task at hand, and if I can do that and stay in the moment and be completely focused over every golf shot I hit from now until Sunday night, then hopefully everything will work out the way I want it to."

US Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau was on course for a place in the final group on Saturday when he matched playing partner Spieth's birdie on the 15th, but bogeyed the next and ran up a triple-bogey seven after two wild drives on the 18th.

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