Former European Tour star turned Sky Sports presenter, Nick Dougherty can see no reason why Rory McIlroy won’t win the Masters in April and complete the career Grand Slam.
It will be almost eight years since McIlroy’s last Major win when he arrives at Augusta bidding to join the most exclusive club in golf and become a Grand Slam champion at the Masters.
McIlroy told NoLayingUp in a pre-Christmas interview that he’s convinced his Major winning days aren’t over and Dougherty is backing the now 32-year old world number 9 to deliver at the first time of asking this April.
“I’m quite an emotional person so I will continue to believe that he will win at Augusta, and there’s no reason why he won’t,” said Dougherty in his SkySports column.
“I honestly believe that he has found that sweet spot of wanting to find some improvement, but also has having the perspective of knowing he has his own way of doing it.
“I feel like there’s been a few years where he has been chasing trying to replicate some of the traits he likes in other players’ games, such as the strengthening of the club-face we see in many of the top players, all in the quest to rise above them all, but I think he is starting to find his own game again.
“I like what he has been saying recently about his performances and I like the work he has done with Brad Faxon. I expect that he will win again early in the season and that would take him into The Masters in great form. He has had chances there, let’s be honest. He has a good record at Augusta National, he just hasn’t got the job done yet.”
As Dougherty points out, McIlroy has had his chances at Augusta National, though perhaps not as many as he should’ve given how his natural draw suits the largely right-to-left shot-shape required to navigate the Cathedral in the Pines.
No chance came better than in 2011, before talk of Grand Slams ever entered the equation. The then baby-faced Holywood star opened with a 65 and entered the final round with a four-shot lead. A snap-hook on 10 sounded the alarm bells, leading to a triple-bogey before he played in a daze thereafter and signed for an 80 and a share of 15th.
Although McIlroy can boast six top-10’s at Augusta, 2018 where he teed up in the last group alongside subsequent victor Patrick Reed was another standout opportunity. A moving day 65 seemed to set up a one-time inevitable Grand Slam for Tiger’s heir apparent before a final round 74 saw another green jacket slip away without McIlroy landing a glove on Reed.
He’ll begin his quest for that most elusive garment in golf later this month with a double-header in the UAE and while McIlroy has been saying all the right things during the off-season, it remains to be seen whether he can finally make the walk to the Butler Cabin and earn golfing immortality.