Rory McIlroy hoping for uplifting return on intensive build-up for Masters
Rigorous workout can give McIlroy a vital edge
Suddenly, the reasons for Rory McIlroy's decision to sidestep the carnival build-up to this week's Masters have been made clear.
While previous years saw the Ulsterman take part in the traditional Par 3 contest upon arrival at Augusta National, sponsors Nike yesterday revealed that the World No.3 is leaving nothing to chance in his bid to secure an elusive Green Jacket and a career Grand Slam this weekend.
As part of their 'Chasing Greatness' campaign, the US sporting brand offered a glimpse of their star turn's preparation over the last fortnight that has included 5.30am wake-up calls and double sessions both in the gym and on the course.
"If you don't love the work you have to put in to become the best, then you may want to consider a different line of work or sport of choice," said the 26-year-old Holywood man. "I think the common denominator among every great athlete, no matter the sport, is they love the chase to improve.
"They dedicate themselves more and that's the main reason they're better."
On his late arrival in Georgia, he added: "You can't learn as much in practice rounds as actual tournaments.
"Everything I've learned there has been during competitive play because there's nothing like missing it in a wrong spot when you really can't miss it in a wrong spot.
"It's why this year I'm not going up early. I'm going up on Monday afternoon and treating it like a regular tournament. I already feel a little more mellow and a lot more chilled compared to all the hype around me a year ago."
Four-time Major winner McIlroy is the only member of the world's top five yet to taste victory this season but will still be among a small group of favourites come his first tee shot on Thursday.
His build-up for the biggest events was called into question as recently as last year after he missed out on defending his Open title at St Andrews thanks to a ruptured ankle ligament sustained playing football with friends but it seems he is singularly focused this time around.
However, with concerns over the cause of Tiger Woods' failing body and discussion over McIlroy's own dedication to weight training, is the dusk till dawn routine the best recipe for success?
Mike McGurn, one of the foremost strength and conditioning coaches in Britain and Ireland, certainly believes so.
Having delivered a talk in Poland last weekend entitled 'Max-Strength Training for Golf and Soccer', McGurn recently spent time studying the training methods of golfers while also working with Queen's Sport's promising youngster Jessica Ross.
He highlighted McIlroy's morning mobility work as the key to the regimen.
"When you think about golf's strength and conditioning, it's a relatively new thing," said the man possessing a C.V that boasts stints with the Irish and Lions rugby teams, Premiership footballers, former World champion boxer Bernard Dunne and Armagh GAA panel.
"It used to be the Darren Clarke approach to training. Now, though, you can see the importance being placed on gym work and, like with anything, if you don't do it properly then you're doing yourself more damage than good.
"When you get people adding all this muscle mass, the key is to do the mobility work.
"Weights stiffen the body, to keep that elasticity, you need the mobility."
McIlroy's rigorous two-week regime is what McGurn describes as "over-reaching".
"It would be fairly standard practice I would say to do that sort of thing; over-reaching before having a down week going in," he said.
"You're not going to be developing in competition. It's during the rest periods that the body builds up. Otherwise, without that, you're actually de-powering yourself.
"Everything he has been doing the past two weeks, during the over-reaching, that's money in the bank for this week.
"The cardiovascular work as well, that's key for a golfer, especially if you make the cut.
"It's not something I had thought about much before doing some work with golf but if you become fatigued late in the round, late in the weekend, that takes its toll on your focus.
"In a game where the mental side is so important, that can be the difference."
With McIlroy's admiration for Woods well documented, any discussion of weight training will edge towards the notion that the 14-time Major winner's back troubles over recent years were the product of bulking up too quickly.
It was an opinion aired by the American's former caddie Steve Williams last week who told BBC Radio's 5 Live: "I guess when he looks back, he might question some of the activities that he did, some of the gym work that he might have done that, you know, had all these injuries escalate."
McGurn is sure, however, that McIlroy's gym work will be tailored to avoid landing him in future trouble.
"Without knowing the ins and outs of Tiger Woods' situation, certainly looking to put on a great amount of muscle mass can lead to trouble with the back if it's not carried out correctly," he added.
"Again, that's why mobility work is so important.
"I've actually seen a few of Rory's lifts and he has pretty good technique.
"He is going to be getting well coached so he'll know what work he has to do."
And should he become just the sixth man to win all four of golf's greatest prizes, it'll make it all worthwhile.
How Rory's shaping up for Augusta
5.30am: Wake up — light breakfast
6.30am: Hit the gym; running and mobility
7.30am: Eat larger breakfast with recovery drink
4.00pm: Mid-afternoon snack
4.45pm: Main workout