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US Masters: Jack Nicklaus tells Rory McIlroy me how to be boss in Augusta

 

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy may have been called a "badass" by Jordan Spieth, but he will heed Jack Nicklaus' advice to employ a conservative approach as he tries to complete the career grand slam.

McIlroy needs to win the Masters to join Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player in having claimed all four major titles. And although Spieth feels McIlroy would have the edge if the pair did battle in the closing stages at Augusta National on Sunday, McIlroy knows limiting his mistakes is key to getting his hands on a Green Jacket.

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Since 2010, the 27-year-old Ulsterman has had more double bogeys or worse at Augusta than any other player under 50, a key factor in shooting a round of 77 or higher in six of his last seven starts.

"If I can make a three on (hole) four and a four on 11 every day this week, I think I'll be okay," McIlroy joked at Augusta yesterday. "I think I played those holes nine over par last year.

"Around here, don't take on too much. Actually I had a little conversation yesterday with Jack Nicklaus in Florida. That's what he said. He said to me, 'I took on too much a couple of times and it cost me a couple of Green Jackets'. I'm like, 'Well, you have six'.

"But he said it is a golf course that can tempt you. It can tempt you into doing a little bit too much.

"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 three or four 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."

McIlroy famously lost a four-shot lead in the final round in 2011 after collapsing to a closing 80, while Spieth has his own demons to conquer after blowing a five-shot advantage with just nine holes to play last year.

The 23-year-old American has still finished second, first and second in his three Masters appearances and feels that "strikes fear" into his opponents.

But asked if there were any players that he feared, Spieth said: "Yeah, Rory McIlroy. He's been there, done that. The guy is a badass. Can I say that here?

"He's a guy that you know that when you're paired up, he's been there and you don't feel like you have that major championship-winning edge. I don't say I've won the Masters and he hasn't. Trust me, he's certainly capable of it and he'll win at least one."

Despite chasing the career grand slam, McIlroy has enjoyed a relatively quiet build-up to the Masters, with most of the attention focused on world number one Dustin Johnson after his three consecutive wins.

After playing 99 holes in practice over the last fortnight, McIlroy plans nine more today before likely missing the traditional par-three contest for the second year running, although that could be disrupted anyway due to bad weather.

"I don't feel like I can fly under the radar anymore, but at the same time it's sort of felt that way to me and it's been nice to be able to prepare and just go about my business and try to get ready for this tournament," McIlroy added.

"I've realised that the more I can get comfortable with this golf course and the club as a whole, the better. The more I can just play the golf course and almost make it seem like second nature to me, the better."

Johnson faces a lengthy wait before beginning his bid for a fourth straight victory and a second major title.

Johnson will be the penultimate player in the 94-man field to hit his opening tee shot at Augusta National after being drawn in the final group at 2.03pm (7.03pm BST) tomorrow.

The US Open champion, who has finished sixth and fourth in the last two years, will partner two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson and US PGA champion Jimmy Walker in the opening two rounds of the year's first major.

McIlroy will start his bid to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam at 1.41pm (6.41pm BST) in the company of Spain's Jon Rahm and Japan's Hideto Tanihara.

And defending champion Danny Willett gets his campaign under way at 12.24pm (5.24pm BST) alongside Matt Kuchar and Australian amateur Curtis Luck.

Rory aiming to join golf’s select club

Rory McIlroy is bidding to join an exclusive club of players who have won all four major titles by winning the Masters at Augusta National this week.

 The world number two took a four-shot lead into the final round in 2011 only to collapse to a closing 80 and finish 10 shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel.

 He bounced back two months later to win the US Open and, after winning the US PGA in 2012, claimed the Open Championship at Hoylake in 2014, following that with a second US PGA title.

 The 27-year-old was fourth in the Masters in 2015 — his best finish in the event — and 10th last year.

Here we look at the five players who have won all four majors:

JACK NICKLAUS (USA) - Masters 6, US Open 4, Open 3, PGA 5 - Total 18

Nicklaus completed the first of three career grand slams at the age of 26 with victory in the Open at Muirfield. He was also runner-up in a major 19 times and won his last title in the 1986 Masters at the age of 46.

TIGER WOODS (USA) - Masters 4, US Open 3, Open 3, PGA 4 - Total 14

Woods completed his career grand slam aged 24 in the 2000 Open at St Andrews on his way to achieving the ‘Tiger Slam’ of 2000 US Open, Open and US PGA and the 2001 Masters.

BEN HOGAN (USA) - Masters 2, US Open 4, Open 1, PGA 2 - Total 9

Hogan was 40 when he completed his slam by winning the only Open he ever played in 1953, having already won the Masters and US Open. He could not play the US PGA that year due to a clash of dates with the Open.

GARY PLAYER (RSA) - Masters 3, US Open 1, Open 3, PGA 2 - Total 9

The only non-American on the list, Player completed the slam aged 29 in the 1965 US Open — the only time he won the event.

GENE SARAZEN (USA) - Masters 1, US Open 2, Open 1, PGA 3 - Total 7

Sarazen completed the slam aged 33 by winning the Masters in 1935, having missed the inaugural tournament the year before due to a “prior commitment” to play an exhibition match in South America.

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