The rainy US Masters forecast looks just right for Rory McIlroy
The 27-year-old’s four major victories have all come at weather affected tournaments
Rory McIlroy walks up the 16th hole in heavy rain during the second round of the 2014 USPGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/PGA of America via Getty Images
Forget Paris in spring, Augusta National at the beginning of April is the place of most beauty as the azaleas and dogwoods come into bloom, the sun beats down on the bright green fairways and greens and that 4k UHD television you bought in the January sales really proves its worth for four days.
Only this year you may not even get the full value of that 42” box. With thunderstorms sweeping through the south of the United States at the moment – and looking set to severely hamper this week’s Shell Houston Open – the former indigo plantation, home to the first major of the year, is taking on quite a bit of water.
The long range forecast for tournament week doesn’t look too promising either with more thunderstorms forecast for Monday – when a lot of players will begin to arrive – and the final day, with rain due on Thursday and Friday. Saturday does look set to offer a reprieve however so make the most of those high definition pictures.
As an aside there is already bad news on the azalea front as they have apparently bloomed early thanks to an unusually warm February and March. When it rains, it really does pour.
But there is one man who will relish the prospect of Augusta’s sub-air drainage system being worked overtime by heavy rainfall, and that is Rory McIlroy.
The now familiar storyline of whether this year the Northern Irishman can claim a green jacket and complete the career grand slam is in full swing and the potential wet conditions may just offer him the very best chance to do so.
McIlroy’s length gives him a huge advantage at the best of times and even more so in wet conditions when short-hitters will struggle to create good birdie opportunities on the ever-lengthening Augusta layout – this year playing roughly 7,435 yards.
His towering iron shots into soft greens will also offer an avantage in terms of control while – perhaps most importantly – wet greens break less.
It’s no secret that the four-time major winner is a streaky putter at the best of times and, coupled with the notorious humps and hollows on the famous course, it does not make for the best combination.
We only need to look to last year’s Masters as an example when, paired with Jordan Spieth on the Saturday, McIlroy’s hopes of securing the title died on the wind-dried, lightning fast surfaces as he watched what felt like every putt slide by – his frustration only heightened by the putting exhibition of his playing partner.
Regardless of what the weather does, the green-jacketed men of the Masters will ensure that the putting surfaces are rolling at their usual 13 or 14 on the stimpmeter (they never disclose the actual speed), but a covering of rain will certainly help to take the fire out of them which could play right into McIlroy’s hands.
On top of all of that, history shows that McIlroy is unquestionably the best player around when it comes to playing on softened-up courses.
Of the four majors he has captured so far in his career, each has experienced a lot of rain and weather delays during the four days.
At the 2011 US Open he crushed the field at a soaking wet Congressional, winning by eight shots with a total of 16 under.
On the first day, after an overnight storm had softened the course up, McIlroy took the lead straight away with a 65 – a score that quite simply is not seen at a US Open.
A year later it was a similar story at Kiawah Island when weekend thunderstorms meant McIlroy had to complete the back nine of his third round on Sunday morning before going on to card a final round 66 to win by eight shots once again.
Perhaps the major that looks least suited to someone hoping for soft conditions is the British Open but, at an unusually green and wet Hoylake in 2014, McIlroy triumphed once again.
That win was also unique in the fact that it was the first time in the 143 year history of the championship where players teed off the first and 10th tees. That happened on the Saturday, and guess why?
There was a thunderstorm on the way that evening.
Finally, to complete a rain-plagued quartet of major victories, McIlroy’s last success came at the 2014 US PGA Championship at Valhalla on what was perhaps the wettest of all of the courses he’s won on.
Rivers running down fairways were a familiar sight by the end of the week in Louisville where McIlroy beat Phil Mickeslon to the title by a shot, playing the final hole in almost complete darkness after multiple weather delays.
The lesson here is that Rory McIlroy very much enjoys competing on wet golf courses. Even cast your mind back to the K Club last year where a monumental effort by the greenkeepers ensured the tournament was completed on Sunday evening with McIlroy claiming his first Irish Open after four days of rain.
The 27-year-old took a reconnaissance trip to Augusta last weekend after his exit from the WGC Dell Matchplay and played two rounds at the Georgia layout in soggy conditions.
Since then he has returned to Florida to fine tune his game before pitching up for tournament duty next Monday evening.
If he arrives in the midst of a thunderstorm it might just be his shoulders that Danny Willett is slipping a green jacket onto come Sunday evening.