McIlroy must “outwit the devil” if he is to have a realistic chance this weekend

Ronan MacNamara

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy revealed that he listened to Napoleon Hill’s audiobook “Outwitting the Devil” last week. A fitting title given his trials and tribulations of chasing an elusive Masters title.

McIlroy already has enough demons to battle but by tonight he will have walked 36 holes with the devil on his shoulder in the shape of world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler lies just one shot behind Bryson DeChambeau after the opening round at Augusta National but crucially, McIlroy has already given the overwhelming favourite a five shot advantage with 54 holes to go meaning he must beat Scheffler today to have a realistic chance of completing the career grand slam.

“It’s a good start, I’m not chasing anything tomorrow, I’m playing beside Scottie so I can keep an eye on him and see what he’s doing,” said McIlroy who will need to take down the devil to have any chance of winning the Masters.

For the most part, even after an iffy start, McIlroy kept on the coattails of Scheffler, but a scrappy finish, compounded by the fact he played the par fives in level-par and Scheffler -3, leaves him with an uphill battle.

Needing a good start having entered the 88th Masters a cumulative nine-over-par for his last five opening rounds at Augusta, a one-under 71 is a solid start but he was undone by some typical Rory McIlroy mistakes.

Nothing seems to come easy for McIlroy at the Masters. Not the gettable par fives which should be the foundation for a score, nor is the green jacket as he has proven. Even getting into contention at the weekend has been a struggle despite seven top-10s in this tournament.

And yet despite opening with an under par effort for the first time since 2018, McIlroy stands in familiar territory after round one of the Masters. Down, but not quite out.

The Holywood man lies in a share of 17th. Not a disaster normally but given that only Tiger Woods (2005 and 2019) has come from outside the top-10 after round one to win the Masters, it just adds another grain of doubt to think that Rory will have to wait at least another year to have golfing immortality.

McIlroy’s approach play was much improved on Thursday so that was a box ticked given that Augusta is a second shot golf course. One would think the par fives which he is a cumulative 94-under-par for would be in danger of being battered by the four-time major winner again.

However, in typical McIlroy fashion, there is always something inexplicable that holds him back. Level-par for the par fives on day one saw him cough up three shots to Scheffler and DeChambeau.

DeChambeau’s poor record at Augusta since turning pro (failing to better his best finish as an amateur in 2016), gives McIlroy hope that he will encounter more Masters difficulties over the next 54 holes, despite how imperiously impressive he looked in that round of 65.

However, it’s the fact that McIlroy looked so windswept after tapping in for a mixed 71 and Scheffler looked like he barely broke sweat in an ominously effortless bogey free 66 that is a concern.

McIlroy is the angel that everybody wants to win and Scheffler is certainly the devil. Although he may not be in the lead, the 2022 Masters champion is the only player capable of winning a second green jacket at a canter and rendering this tournament uneventful.

The 34-year-old said he didn’t notice how well Scheffler was playing but surely the fact he is five shots behind the biggest obstacle standing in his way of a fifth major here will play on his mind.

All hope is not lost though. McIlroy gave Scheffler a six shot advantage in the final round of the 2022 Tour Championship and won. Patience must still be a virtue, but it is imperative that he close the gap on the leaders today.

Before a ball was struck, it seemed that if you wanted to win this week, you must finish ahead of Scheffler and that’s how it’s proved thus far.

Rory got back to work on Thursday but from now on, merely keeping up with Scheffler won’t be enough.

It’s hard to play with the devil on your back, so shake him off.



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