McIlroy and Poulter in search of Masters momentum

Ryder Cup duo out to sharpen their games at Texas Open

Rory McIlroy will play at the Texas Open in a bid to sharpen his game ahead of next week’s Masters at Augusta. Photograph:  Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy will play at the Texas Open in a bid to sharpen his game ahead of next week’s Masters at Augusta. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

 

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter will have to defy the odds if they want to win the Valero Texas Open and then claim a first Green Jacket in next week’s US Masters.

Only two players have won the week prior to the Masters and then gone on to win in Augusta; Sandy Lyle in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1988 and Phil Mickelson in the BellSouth Classic in 2006.

But the Ryder Cup team-mates will both be trying to at least get into contention in San Antonio after adding the tournament to their schedules at the last minute — both on the advice of their caddy.

“JP (Fitzgerald) was the one that mentioned it to me,” McIlroy explained to reporters at the Houston Open last week. “He said, ‘if you just play a few more rounds, I think you’re going to be ready’.

“I didn’t really think about it too much and sat down, had some lunch, started to think about it and I texted him and said, ‘I don’t think this is a bad idea’. Probably took me an hour or two to sort of think about it and decide.”

McIlroy’s struggles this year have been well documented, with the 23-year-old walking off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic and losing his status as world number one to Tiger Woods.

And although the Masters will be his third tournament in succession — in stark contrast to last year when he took three weeks off before Augusta — the Northern Irishman’s poor form does have one advantage.

“There’s not any worry of burnout,” joked McIlroy, who has completed just 12 full competitive rounds in 2013. “It’s just about playing a bit more competitive golf and getting a little sharper. I think the more rounds I play, the better it will be for me going into Augusta.”

McIlroy and Poulter are by no means the only star names competing this week, with Major champions Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk and Charl Schwartzel also in the field.

Harrington believes McIlroy has little to worry about despite his current poor form. “The fact of the matter is if you peak, it’s impossible to peak all the time,”

Harrington said on the eve of the tournament.

“That’s what a peak is. It’s when you play better than the norm or the average or the median or whatever you want to call it. All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks and his game is plenty good enough, as he’s shown when he does peak, he can lap fields.

“Consistency is highly overrated. We all want to be consistent as professional golfers, but generally people that are consistent are mediocre. So if you want to have the really good days, it’s unlikely.

“As players we go out there and practice all day looking for consistency, but consistency actually is boring, so you want the exciting peaks, even if that means that there are going to be some frustrating days afterwards, so be it. “You’re going to be remembered in your career for the high points, not for the mediocre ones. So if I was him, I wouldn’t let anybody get in his head and just go about his business and stay patient.

“Those majors will roll in when they’re due. You can’t really force things like that. Nobody wins them one a year no matter how good they are. Just let him have time. A lot of other sports there is less competition during the year. In golf, there is a lot of competition, and when you’re world number one, every time Rory plays or Tiger, the focus is there and people want them to play absolutely to the very best every day of the week, which is just not a reality at all.”