Rory Still Has Augusta On His Mind
RORY McILROY is a conundrum. He needs to win The Masters next month to become only the sixth man in history to secure all four of golf's majors. The others to do so are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.
The Northern Irishman has come close to wearing the Green Jacket on several occasions and should have won it at least twice. But his search goes on.
And one of the reasons why he is finding it so difficult may have emerged with his most recent comments about his quest - and the way he intends to put things right. It seems that he starts every year with a new plan. This year it is to play in four tournaments leading up to Augusta.
In the past he has said that he wanted to focus his attention on the PGA Tour because that would give him his best chance of adding to his major tally of four. More significantly, he has insisted that he is reluctant to play more than three weeks on the trot for fear of burning himself out. This time he has revealed that he intends to play in four tournaments in the run-up to Augusta. So what happened to burning himself out?
With apologies to fans of the likes of Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods, McIlroy is the most naturally gifted professional golfer in the business. And the media love him because he is always prepared to address any subject. But you do begin to wonder if his mind is starting to get in his way.
Rory is playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open. He is a past winner at Bay Hill and the defending champion at the Players Championship, and he says that he is embarking on such a busy schedule to take his mind off Augusta. And yet here he is talking about The Masters.
“It’s different for everyone. For me what I realised is I can’t make things too big in my head,” he said. "So if I started to gear up for Augusta in January, by the time Augusta got around in April my head would be absolutely fried. So I try to push it out as late as possible. I’ve got four tournaments to play between now and then and my biggest concern and my top priority are those four tournaments.
“I don’t think anything trumps execution in this game, so it’s just getting your game in good form. Playing enough competitive rounds, just shooting good scores, seeing shots. It’s not as if I’m out on the golf course on the thinking, ‘OK, this is the 5th hole at Augusta, this is the tee shot I need. Some guys might do that, I’m not sure, but for me if I’m playing good golf that’s the most important thing.”
You would bet serious money on McIlroy winning at least one of those four events, possibly even two, and increasing his lead at the top of the world rankings. But will that really improve his chances of winning The Masters. When he arrives at Augusta you would love to believe that he will not be haunted by memories of past failures but it is difficult to believe that will be the case. He is desperate to win there and if he is guilty of anything it may well be that when The Masters comes around he is guilty of perhaps trying too hard.
Many great golfers were never able to wear the green jacket - Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf, Lee Trevino and, most notably, Greg Norman, to name but four of them. The Masters drove Norman to distraction, never more so than in 1996 when he went into the final round leading Nick Faldo by six strokes but ended up trailing him by five after the Englishman shot a final round of 67, while Norman collapsed to a 78.
It is to be hoped that this is not what fate has in store for McIlroy, but he will not need anybody to remind him that it is now getting on for six years since he won the last of his four majors. Another year, a different type of preparation - let’s hope he has got it right this time.
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