Rory McIlroy primed for action in US Masters

Irishman opts for new fairway woods in his bag ahead of tilt at coveted Augusta Masters glory

World number two Rory McIlroy speaks to the media as he aims to win the US Masters for the first time. Video: Reuters/Augusta National Inc.

 

Whatever it takes, within the rules . . . of course. Rory McIlroy has had a gentle word in his ear from Jack Nicklaus – “it is a golf course that can tempt you, it can tempt you into doing a little bit too much ”, advised the Golden Bear to the young cub – and fearlessly put new fairway woods into his bag.

A word to the wise, an equipment change; whatever it takes, if he must, in his bid to complete the career Grand Slam here at the US Masters, the only blank on his Majors curriculum vitae. 

Was there a danger in changing equipment – from Callaway Big Bertha to TaylorMade M2 3- and 5-woods – so soon before the Masters? A shake of the head from McIlroy, who explained how his golf ball was “quite spinny” and how the newly introduced clubs “fit this golf course”.

Fairway woods

Indeed, this isn’t the first time McIlroy had made adjustments to what he has put in his bag so close to a tournament.

“I’ve came up here when I was with Nike, and even like bent 3-woods to 12 degrees to make them like mini drivers and put a little bit of weight in the heel so it would make them turnover easier.  So I’ve always been experimenting with that sort of stuff and trying to find the best possible setup for this golf course.” expanded McIlroy.

In all, McIlroy has played 99 holes of practice, spread over three separate visits, in preparation. He paid one visit ahead of the WGC-Dell Matchplay, another after it, and then – having prepared at The Bear Club, where he met with Nicklaus on Monday – arrived into Augusta and yesterday did some more prep work.

“The more I can just play the golf course and almost make it seem like second nature to me, where to hit the balls on the green and where to start putts and know where the pin positions are; the more that can become second nature, the better,” said McIlroy, who has been in the top-10 in each of his last three appearances in the Masters.

McIlroy, comfortable and ease apart from one question about playing that round with President Trump, is only 27 years of age but is playing his ninth Masters. He’s had his highs and lows, ups and downs, but believes it is all a part of the learning process.

As he put it, “As a golfer, I think there’s a lot of lessons there that have served me well from then to winning four Major championships and being able to achieve some of the things that I’ve wanted to achieve. And then as a person, as well, you know, nothing is given to you.  You have to go and work for it.  It’s never over – the one thing I did learn, if I’m four or five behind going into the back nine this week, for example, you know, it’s never over. 

“You can never give up, because it takes either a lapse of concentration from someone else or a moment of brilliance from yourself to turn things around.

Back nine

“I cast my mind back to the 11th hole on Saturday last year where I’m in the pine straw on the left and I’m trying to hit this low hook around and catch the hill and trying to get it up onto the green and hit this heroic shot and it goes in the water and I make a six. 

That’s the last thing I needed.  I was 3-or 4 over for the day at that point and I needed to hit it to the right of the green and try and make my up-and-down. 

“Even if you make five, five is better than six; take the water out of play.  Just little things like that where the golf course tempts you to do something.  So it’s just a matter of being smart, taking your medicine when you have to and moving on.”

A year older, and a little wiser.

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