Can Rory McIlroy play a masterful ‘game of chess’ to finally complete his Grand Slam?
After each of his first 13 appearances, Rory McIlroy left Augusta National disappointed.
Some of those frustrations would make it difficult to gain ownership the following year, but McIlroy comes back again and again, thwarted each time.
On Tuesday, after returning for his 14th appearance, McIlroy sported a smile on his face and said how happy he was to be back, even at a venue where he suffered his worst defeat.
How does a player come back after leading each of the first three rounds only to see his game crumble on the back nine, and with it his best chance of winning a major at the time?
On Sunday afternoon in 2011, McIlroy’s game completely came unstuck after he hit a tee shot so far left on the par-4 10th that he had to take a drop from the cabins on the hill.
It was a prelude to disaster, dropping from 11 under par and the final round lead to 8 under after a triple bogey. Unfortunately for McIlroy, his response was a bogey-double bogey, dropping the Ulsterman to 5 under after the 12th hole. With nothing left in the emotional tank, he finished with a 7 of 43 on the back nine.
“It’s my first experience in this, and hopefully the next time I’m in this position I can handle it a bit better,” McIlroy said after his first Sunday’s 80 with a chance to win. a major. . “I didn’t handle it particularly well today, obviously, but it was a character-building day, to put it that way. I will come out stronger. »
A few months later, McIlroy, at 21, won his first major, the US Open at Congressional Country Club, and won the PGA Championship in 2012 as well as another PGA and the British Open in 2014.
That streak of four major wins over 38 months was impressive, with some beginning to put McIlroy’s name in the same bucket as Tiger Woods, but since his last PGA Championship victory, McIlroy has only managed to win golf tournaments. – not adults. He now arrives at the Masters at 32, looking not only for his first major since 2014, but also for the end of a career Grand Slam.
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“I’m maybe at a different stage in my life where back then golf was everything,” McIlroy said of his focus on golf in 2014. “It’s still very, very important, but can -maybe at the time I would think that – I don’t know if I would feel fulfilled if I didn’t win one or whatever, but it’s less pressure.
“I know if I play well I will give myself a chance to win this golf tournament. It’s just a matter of going out there and executing the way you know you can and sticking with it. to your game plan and to be patient and to be disciplined and all the things you need to do around Augusta National.”
Patience and discipline are against McIlroy’s nature. Playing away from trouble, not shooting the flags and not being aggressive is what he called “a negative way of thinking, but that’s the way to play around this place”.
“It’s as much a game of chess as anything else,” McIlroy said of the win around Augusta. “It’s just about getting in the right positions, being disciplined, being patient and knowing that the pars are good, and even if you make a few pars on the par 5s, that’s fine, and you keep going. to advance.”
McIlroy’s previous success at the majors came when he not only made the cut in the tournament before, but generally played well with three of his four majors past the top 5 or better.
He thinks missing the cut last week at the Valero Texas Open was a blessing in disguise, allowing him to work on his game and feel better rather than barely making the cut and playing on the weekend with little time to spare. refine.
Now McIlroy must take that good feeling he arrived with and overcome his tendency to play aggressively and force the result, or he will leave Augusta on Sunday still disappointed.
“I know that if I play well, I’ll give myself a chance to win this golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and executing the way you know you can and sticking to your game plan and being patient and disciplined and whatever you need to do around of Augusta National.”
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