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Getting back to basics can boost Rory's Grand Slam dream

 

By Adam McKendry

Leaving Augusta after a week at The Masters is hard to do. Everything within the confines of the historic golf club is pristine and utterly unique. For a week you can forget about the hustle and bustle of the world beyond Magnolia Lane and enjoy golf in its most beautiful form.

But now, as hundreds of workers sweep up the echoes of another Major gone by, each player will filter away from the small Georgian town - some to their next event, some to take some much-needed time off.

For some, they will leave with good memories - you'd imagine new champion Patrick Reed would be one of them, as might be top amateur Doug Ghim. For some, not so good - Tiger Woods, for instance, as his comeback took a minor hit.

For Rory McIlroy, let's say he's somewhere in the middle.

Yet again he was in contention for that final elusive Major, at one point just a stroke behind Reed and looking good, but ultimately it slipped away as his final round hit the buffers around the third and fifth.

That being said, he leaves with another reminder that he's still so close to pulling on that green jacket, he simply needs everything to fall his way for four days.

But frustration will still reign supreme. Let's not forget that, had that four-footer on the second dropped for eagle, he was tied for the lead, and who knows what might have happened from there.

It's a reminder that, no matter how much he says he's right mentally and no matter how much he says he's improved, the demons of his erratic putting still lurk around every corner, and at Augusta they provided the jump scare on Sunday.

Before the final round, McIlroy had holed all 35 putts he'd faced within five feet. It was a big reason why he was in the position he was. When his deadeye with the flat iron abandoned him, so did his Grand Slam hopes.

You wonder what the mental toll is on the 28-year-old now. He's got plenty of time on his side - we're talking another 15 to 20 attempts at least, if not more - but every time a chance like this goes by, you wonder.

Phil Mickelson, one of the greatest golfers of his generation, is still yet to win the US Open despite coming second on six occasions. Every year the frustration grows, and he's running out of time a lot faster than McIlroy.

Problem is, the Ulsterman will have a lot more time to stew over not completing that Grand Slam. He's had 10 goes at winning The Masters already and, the more that piles up, the bigger the monkey on his back gets.

It was interesting to hear winner Reed's philosophy this week.

"Just go out there and play golf," the Texan had preached.

Simple. Straightforward. To the point.

In contrast, McIlroy talked technical, what he needed to do and where, what he needed to do on Sunday. Reed just went, played golf and won.

McIlroy's approach works - no doubt, he wouldn't have been second heading into the final round if it didn't. But you have to wonder if he's putting too much pressure on himself to finish things off.

Certainly it would take a huge stress off his shoulders if he did do it next year - that freedom to return to Augusta as a champion as opposed to a perennial also-ran would change his entire philosophy at the course he loves more than most.

For now, however, McIlroy is still in the latter category, and the solution is still evading him on that final day.

The Holywood man walked away with $386,375 in his pocket from this week in a tie for fifth place. It's a handy purse, and a reflection of a good week at Augusta.

But there's still no green jacket. And that's really all that matters to him.

Belfast Telegraph

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