When Rory McIlroy drives into the ‘Players Only’ car park at Augusta National it will be the 12th occasion since 2009 he’ll compete in the Masters. It will also be ‘Take-6’ since 2015 in McIlroy’s quest to win the only major championship lacking from a golfing CV that would admit him to the most exclusive club in all of golf.
Remarkably, six years have passed since McIlroy won back-to-back majors in 2014 and in the intervening period the Masters has seemingly done everything to deny the affable Irishman.
Of course, no matter what path you choose to take in life nothing is ever guaranteed and you can never take anything for granted. You have to work at it. But as every year goes on, so does McIlroys’ quest to be fitted with an Augusta National members green jacket.
It remains a surprise to many that McIlroy is still without a Masters victory and one of those just as surprised is fellow Ulster golfer Graeme McDowell.
“If you told me 10 years ago, we’d be sitting here and Rory’s won four Major championships and Augusta wasn’t one of them, I wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “If there’s one major championship set up for him, it’s Augusta.
“We don’t know how much pressure he’s putting on himself. It would be a momentous achievement to win all four, we’d love to see him getting it done next week. It would be very exciting for Irish golf and I think he’s more than capable of it.
“But we don’t know what’s inside the head and how much pressure he’s putting on himself. He’s a smart kid.”
If there is a plus in McIlroy’s favour it’s becoming a father, with his wife Erica giving birth on August 30th to a daughter named Poppy Kennedy. Will fatherhood make any difference when McIlroy again put himself in contention on the golf course affectionately known as the cathedral among the pines?
“I’m sure Rory’s very happy at home,” McDowell added. “Getting into a space in his life where you’re starting to settle down as a person and man. He could easily get the job done next week.
“But there are a lot of guys who could potentially win. Bryson (DeChambeau), Brooks (Koepka) and then there are the young guns in (Matthew) Wolff, (Victor) Hovland and obviously (Collin) Morikawa.
“There are a lot of guys who can get the job done so it’s going to be a very exciting week.”