Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Rory McIlroy sets his sights on third major win at Masters in Augusta

Rory McIlroy speaks to the media during a practice round prior to the start of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9
Rory McIlroy speaks to the media during a practice round prior to the start of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9

Holywood's own superstar Rory McIlroy paused briefly when asked if anything less than a win at the US Masters this week would be a disappointment.

But the answer was worth the wait.

Despite his well-publicised struggles this season with a combination of new equipment, poor form, poor judgement and a painful wisdom tooth, McIlroy was unequivocal.

"Yeah, it would be," the Co Down man said.

"Every time you come to Augusta you want to win the Green Jacket and every time you don't it's another chance missed. If I am sitting here on Sunday having finished second and having given it a good run you can't be too disappointed, but the ultimate aim is to win.

"The main golf season is from April to the end of August (encompassing the four major championships) so that's when I want to play my best golf."

The chances of that happening looked slim at the start of the season, with a missed cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship in his first event since signing a multi-million pound deal with Nike being followed by a first-round loss to Shane Lowry in the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Worse was to come when he then withdrew from his defence of the Honda Classic midway through a terrible second round, initially telling reporters that he was in a "bad place mentally" but then issuing a statement blaming his exit on the pain from a wisdom tooth which is due to be removed in June.

A few days later the 23-year-old admitted that was no excuse and publicly apologised, before finishing the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a round of 65 to suggest that his game was finally returning to the sort of shape which brought him five wins in 2012, one of them being a second major at the US PGA Championship.

After only finishing 45th at the Houston Open, McIlroy then added last week's Texas Open to his schedule at the last minute - forcing him to cancel a trip to Haiti as a Unicef ambassador - but it paid dividends with a closing 66 to finish just two shots behind winner Martin Laird.

"I feel last week went really well, almost perfect," McIlroy added. "I got what I wanted out of it in terms of playing more competitive golf, a bonus was getting into contention and how I played then was pleasing.

"I chased Martin pretty hard and most times a 66 is going to be enough, I just got beat by an unbelievable round."

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