Golf-McIlroy preaching patience ahead of Grand Slam bid at Masters

By Thomson Reuters Apr 9, 2024 | 12:52 PM

By Frank Pingue

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy will make his 10th attempt at completing a career Grand Slam this week at the Masters where the Northern Irishman promises to take a more patient approach on a course where an aggressive strategy has cost him dearly.

McIlroy was only on the Augusta National Golf Club property for 30 minutes on Tuesday before meeting reporters where he was asked how he can keep his burning desire to win a Masters from becoming so big it becomes an obstacle.

“I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot. I think that’s something that I’ve tried to learn. It’s a 72-hole golf tournament,” said McIlroy.

“This golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses, if you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, because it always tempts you to do something you think you can do.

“And I’m pretty confident in my golf game. 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.”

Should McIlroy need further proof that the Masters is not won or lost on the first hole, he need only look back to last year when Jon Rahm four-putted his opening hole for a double-bogey but still went on to slip into a Green Jacket.

McIlroy has a game tailor-made for Augusta National given his long drives and right-to-left tee shots that allow him to take advantage of the par-fives and he has been in contention many times but seems to be hampered by one poor round each week.

In 2011, McIlroy began the final round with a four-shot lead but endured a harrowing back-nine collapse, starting with a triple-bogey at the 10th before closing with an eight-over 80 to finish in a tie for 15th.

The pressure of a Grand Slam pursuit has been following McIlroy around since he won the 2014 British Open, a victory that gave him three of the four major championships.


But the 34-year-old Northern Irishman, who this week will make his 16th Masters appearance, feels a busier schedule this year has allowed him to be more in tune with where his game is and how to manage it better.

“Thankfully, I’ve improved a bit since my first start here, and I feel like I’ve got all the tools to do well this week,” said McIlroy, who played two practice rounds at Augusta National early last week.

“But, again, to bring those tools out, I think one of the most important things is to enjoy it and smell the — I guess not the roses, the azaleas along the way.”

Should McIlroy slip into a Green Jacket this year, he would become only the sixth man to win all four of golf’s blue riband events, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

Among those who fully believe McIlroy will one day join the exclusive club of Grand Slam winners is five-times Masters champion Woods.

“No question, he’ll do it at some point. He’s just — 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,” Woods said earlier on Tuesday.

“Rory will be a great Masters champion one day, and it could be this week. You never know. I just think that just, again, the talent that he has, the way he plays game and the golf course fits his eye, it’s just a matter of time.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Christian Radnedge)