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Blistering start is my best chance of Augusta success, says Rory McIlroy

Published 07/04/2016

Rory McIlroy has his sights set on a career grand slam at the Masters
Rory McIlroy has his sights set on a career grand slam at the Masters
Rory McIlroy, left, has his sights set on a career grand slam at the Masters (AP)

Are we there yet, are we there yet? The plaintive cry from the back seat of the car known to frustrated parents the world over.

That’s how it has been in the build-up to the 80th Masters at Augusta. Waiting, wondering, speculating, impatient for the action to begin.

Around the clubhouse area and the big tree under which the players traditionally stop and chat to the media and friends, the question to be heard was: “who’s going to win this thing?”

Rory McIlroy? Jordan Spieth? Jason Day? Maybe Bubba Watson. Rickie Fowler is lurking, quietly focused on breaking into the ranks of Major tournament winners.

Ominously, perhaps, the projected weather forecast, particularly the wind element, intruded into the eve-of-battle assessments.

Rain is forecast, and winds could gust up to 30mph. What effect will that have on the scoring?

Thousands flocked to the course to sample the atmosphere, many of them availing of their only chance to see the players live, either on the course in practice or at the fun event, the Par Three contest.

‘Fun’ is not the word which will apply to the main protagonists. McIlroy has the pressure of seeking the career Grand Slam; Day needs to push on and add to his sole Major title, the 2015 US PGA; Spieth is eager to follow up a dream campaign last year and convince himself that he can recapture that level of consistency.

They know they have every weapon they need in their armoury to achieve their goals.

The players also know the vagaries of golf. You can bet McIlroy will feel the pressure, especially having to wait to tee off in the last group alongside Martin Kaymer and Bill Haas.

The Ulsterman said: “It’s imperative to get off to a great start here. You look at a lot of Masters champions in the past, they have been right up there from the first day.

“I really think it is important, especially for me, to get off to a good start. That’s been the thing that’s held me back the last couple of years, and I’ll try to change that.”

Spieth (right) seeks that balance of patience and focus that can allow him to play his best golf, and he also wants a fast start.

Last year’s champion said: “I hope I get off to a good start. If I don’t, then I’m going to have to reach down deep and really stay patient and let birdies come to me.

“I think recently I’ve been trying very hard to make birdies wherever I’m at to get on these runs like I did early Sunday in Houston.

“And on this type of golf course, that’s easy to do, as well. You play these par-fives and you think, the winners from the previous whatever years have all played these par-fives so well.

“Well, that’s something that’s easy to think about here (in the media centre), but you let them come to you.”

Day has arrived in fine fettle, with two tournament wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Match Play.

All he has to do is keep the magic flowing to give himself a terrific chance of winning a green jacket.

Easily said, difficult to deliver, and for Day, the trick is to hold himself in check and avoid trying too hard.

The Australian said: “I need to relax. I know there’s certain steps I need to take to read putts or get information, or how to execute a shot. I’ve got to through that normal pattern and try and do it that way rather than missing a step, or trying mentally too hard.”

Frustration and blood pressure levels tend to rise in proportion to a player’s putting stats at Augusta.

Phil Mickelson, he of the legendary short game, aims to switch between the claw grip and a conventional grip on various putts according to his assessment of the requirements on a particular putt.

Graeme McDowell (right) placed great emphasis on his pitching and putting in his homework, hoping to improve on his poor record at the Masters which includes five missed cuts in eight previous appearances.

Shane Lowry is playing in only his second Masters. A year since his debut, he comes to Augusta with confidence after that WGC-Bridgestone triumph last season.

His relative inexperience in the first Major of the season counts against placing him in the ‘likely winners’ category, but he can get the putter working, he could have a decent tournament.

Darren Clarke, alas, does not inspire hopes of a significant threat to the leaderboard.

Three years short of his 50th birthday, the Ryder Cup captain knows his five-year exemption following the 2011 Open success ends this year.

He did make the cut last year, and surviving to the weekend would represent an achievement for Clarke.

Watson has two green jackets to date and despite a sinus infection which left him bedridden for around 30 hours earlier in the week, he can present a significant threat to the ambitions of McIlroy, Spieth and Day.

Watson annexed the Northern Trust Open in February. He drives the ball prodigious distances, and when he is ‘on’, his imagination allows him shape the ball any way he wants.

If he has an Achilles heel this year, it’s the 10 footers on the greens that have caused him most frustration. Get those sorted, and Watson can make a real run at clinching his third Masters victory.

Forty nine years have passed since legendary amateur Joe Carr became the first Irishman to grace the Masters stage. He made the cut and finished 55th.

Ten years after Carr’s debut, Christy O’Connor Jnr was the first Irish professional to play in the tournament. Now, in 2016, McIlroy stands on verge of an historic achievement.

The Masters, Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.00pm

 

 

 

On course: Rory McIlroy has highlighted the importance of a good start at Augusta

 

ARE we there yet, are we there yet? The plaintive cry from the back seat of the car known to frustrated parents the world over.

That’s how it has been in the build-up to the 80th Masters at Augusta. Waiting, wondering, speculating, impatient for the action to begin.

Around the clubhouse area and the big tree under which the players traditionally stop and chat to the media and friends, the question to be heard was: “who’s going to win this thing?”

Rory McIlroy? Jordan Spieth? Jason Day? Maybe Bubba Watson. Rickie Fowler is lurking, quietly focused on breaking into the ranks of Major tournament winners.

Ominously, perhaps, the projected weather forecast, particularly the wind element, intruded into the eve-of-battle assessments.

Rain is forecast, and winds could gust up to 30mph. What effect will that have on the scoring?

Thousands flocked to the course to sample the atmosphere, many of them availing of their only chance to see the players live, either on the course in practice or at the fun event, the Par Three contest.

‘Fun’ is not the word which will apply to the main protagonists. McIlroy has the pressure of seeking the career Grand Slam; Day needs to push on and add to his sole Major title, the 2015 US PGA; Spieth is eager to follow up a dream campaign last year and convince himself that he can recapture that level of consistency.

They know they have every weapon they need in their armoury to achieve their goals.

The players also know the vagaries of golf. You can bet McIlroy will feel the pressure, especially having to wait to tee off in the last group alongside Martin Kaymer and Bill Haas.

The Ulsterman said: “It’s imperative to get off to a great start here. You look at a lot of Masters champions in the past, they have been right up there from the first day.

“I really think it is important, especially for me, to get off to a good start. That’s been the thing that’s held me back the last couple of years, and I’ll try to change that.”

Spieth (right) seeks that balance of patience and focus that can allow him to play his best golf, and he also wants a fast start.

Last year’s champion said: “I hope I get off to a good start. If I don’t, then I’m going to have to reach down deep and really stay patient and let birdies come to me.

“I think recently I’ve been trying very hard to make birdies wherever I’m at to get on these runs like I did early Sunday in Houston.

“And on this type of golf course, that’s easy to do, as well. You play these par-fives and you think, the winners from the previous whatever years have all played these par-fives so well.

“Well, that’s something that’s easy to think about here (in the media centre), but you let them come to you.”

Day has arrived in fine fettle, with two tournament wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Match Play.

All he has to do is keep the magic flowing to give himself a terrific chance of winning a green jacket.

Easily said, difficult to deliver, and for Day, the trick is to hold himself in check and avoid trying too hard.

The Australian said: “I need to relax. I know there’s certain steps I need to take to read putts or get information, or how to execute a shot. I’ve got to through that normal pattern and try and do it that way rather than missing a step, or trying mentally too hard.”

Frustration and blood pressure levels tend to rise in proportion to a player’s putting stats at Augusta.

Phil Mickelson, he of the legendary short game, aims to switch between the claw grip and a conventional grip on various putts according to his assessment of the requirements on a particular putt.

Graeme McDowell (right) placed great emphasis on his pitching and putting in his homework, hoping to improve on his poor record at the Masters which includes five missed cuts in eight previous appearances.

Shane Lowry is playing in only his second Masters. A year since his debut, he comes to Augusta with confidence after that WGC-Bridgestone triumph last season.

His relative inexperience in the first Major of the season counts against placing him in the ‘likely winners’ category, but he can get the putter working, he could have a decent tournament.

Darren Clarke, alas, does not inspire hopes of a significant threat to the leaderboard.

Three years short of his 50th birthday, the Ryder Cup captain knows his five-year exemption following the 2011 Open success ends this year.

He did make the cut last year, and surviving to the weekend would represent an achievement for Clarke.

Watson has two green jackets to date and despite a sinus infection which left him bedridden for around 30 hours earlier in the week, he can present a significant threat to the ambitions of McIlroy, Spieth and Day.

Watson annexed the Northern Trust Open in February. He drives the ball prodigious distances, and when he is ‘on’, his imagination allows him shape the ball any way he wants.

If he has an Achilles heel this year, it’s the ten footers on the greens that have caused him most frustration.

Get those sorted, and Watson can make a real run at clinching his third victory in the tournament.

Forty nine years have passed since the legendary amateur Joe Carr became the first Irishman to grace the Masters stage. He made the cut and finished in 55th place.

Ten years after Carr’s debut, Christy O’Connor Jnr was the first Irish professional to play in the tournament.

Now, in 2016, McIlroy stands on verge of an historic achievement.

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