Its all about the start – Rory’s Masters quest continues

Peter Finnan

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of practice round 2 prior to the start of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

Peter Finnan

Feature Interviews

Latest Stories

If Tuesday at the Masters proved one thing to me it’s that I’m not the only one convinced that Rory will complete the Grand Slam and claim a green jacket. But will it be this week is the burning question.

Tuesday was a stacked day with all the main contenders summoned to the press room for media appointments. Tiger, Rory, Scottie, Brooks, Rahm all back-to-back. In his presser, Tiger was asked the direct question – Will Rory ever complete the Slam? He was absolute in his answer.

“No question, he’ll do it at some point,” Woods said. “Rory’s too talented, too good. He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time. He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when.”

McIlroy is still just 34 years old, the same as Phil Mickelson when he won his first Masters in 2004 and still nine years younger than Tiger when he won his last green jacket in 2019.

But McIlroy’s Major struggles over the past decade are a tough read. After claiming his fourth major at the 2014 PGA Championship he has registered 20 top-10 finishes since, including seven of the last eight — without a victory.

During that Major barren spell for Rory, Brooks Koepka has collected five Majors the last at the 2023 PGA Championship. The win prompted McIlroy to admit he was upset that someone in his “era” now had more major titles than him.

“It’s hard for me not to define myself as one of the best golfers in the world, so when you struggle like that, you feel a little lost,” McIlroy said. “But, I think it was a wake-up call for me to say, Let’s just focus on the golf for a little bit.”

Since that PGA win for Koepka, Rory has indeed made changes. He has removed himself from the politics of the game and narrowed his focus to the course all in preparation for the 2024 Major season.

McIlroy was in the press room just after Tiger and admitted that Woods comments were “flattering.”

“It’s nice to hear, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game say something like that,” McIlroy said. “Does that mean that it’s going to happen? Obviously not. But he’s been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it. I know I’ve got the potential to do it too. It’s not as if I haven’t been a pretty good player for the last couple of decades.”

Of all the press conferences on Tuesday, Rory’s was noticeably different. His new Masters game plan was evident. A man that normally opens his soul delivered an unusually brief press conference. After a swift 11 minutes and just seven questions, the session concluded.

This is all part of his fresh strategy for his 10th attempt to secure the career Grand Slam at Augusta. He’s ramped up his tournament play in the lead-up, including participating in the Valero Texas Open last week again a change to his usual routine.

For the record, I’m with Tiger, I think he will do it……eventually. If it’s to happen this week however, it’s all about the start. Only twice in the last 25 years has the Masters winner not been inside the top 10 after day 1. Both of those were Tiger wins with 2019 being the last one. In a bad omen, in 15 Masters starts he has only carded opening rounds in the 60s twice.

Reflecting on last year’s disappointment where he missed the cut after carding his worst score since 2012, McIlroy knows the importance of a steady start.

“I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient. I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot. I think that’s something that I’ve tried to learn.”

Since making his Masters debut in 2009, McIlroy has struggled on the opening hole, managing to start with a birdie just three times. In the 54 rounds he has played, his overall score on the first hole is +12, but his powers of recovery are evident on the second hole, with a combined score of -20. If this is to be his year, the key could be in his approach to the first, set the tone and then fill his boots on the second and kick on!

McIlroy begins his 16th Masters at 15:42 Thursday, alongside World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele. They rank 1st (Scottie -62), 3rd (McIlroy, -38) and 4th (Schauffele, -24) in cumulative score to par at the Majors since 2020.

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.