Rory McIlroy heads into next Thursday’s starting Masters a ‘different person’ after the brilliance in capturing the recent Players Championship. That’s the view of former two-time US Open and victorious Ryder Cup Captain, Curtis Strange.
After an early season golf bag full of strong finishes, capped by his Players Championship triumph, McIlroy is primed to end a five-year Major victory drought in Georgia.
Strange won 28 times in his career including the 1988 US Open and successfully defended the trophy a year later, just six weeks after McIlroy was born.
The now 64-year old American teed-up in 20 Masters from 1975 to 1996 with a best finish of T2nd in 1985.
And after what Strange has seen of McIlroy these past three months, he’s backing the soon-to-be 30-year old to get fitted with a green jacket.“Rory winning the Players was huge,” said Strange.
“To get over that little hurdle and win on really a kind of quirky golf course, similar to Augusta, to win on a big stage like that, you think about yourself differently.
”We need no reminding of McIlroy’s near misses at the Masters but while there was that meltdown a year ago in the company of Patrick Reed when he had posted a third-round 65 only to endure the Augusta anguish of a closing 74, Strange believes the Players win will help steer McIlroy to a Masters victory.
“If he’s in contention come Sunday afternoon, it’s a different Rory after winning The Players,” said Strange.
“It’s such a mind game, so I think it was huge.“Plus, he’s got the motivation. He knows what he’s going up against, completing the Slam here.“I think more than anything else, Rory has to calm down and just get the job done.
”While Strange likes McIlroy’s chances he’s also seen enough, as an ESPN TV analyst, to like the looks of Francesco Molinari to create further golf history.
“What Francesco has achieved in the past 10 months or so, he’s one-up on most of the players because he’s going to play it in the middle of the fairway every time,” Strange said.
MCILROY – 2019 MASTERS FACT FILE
Rory McIlroy – Age 29
First Masters – 2009 (T-20th)
Best finish – 4th (2015)
No of Masters – 10
Rounds played – 38
Rounds in the 60s – 10
Lowest score – 65 (Day one, 2011 & Day three, 2018)
Highest score – 80 (Day four, 2011)
Round under par – 23
Rounds level par – 3
Rounds over par – 12