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How meditation and juggling are helping to fire Rory McIlroy's Masters bid

 

Looking on: Rory McIlroy and caddie Harry Diamond during practice at Augusta
Looking on: Rory McIlroy and caddie Harry Diamond during practice at Augusta

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy believes juggling and meditation can help him win the Masters and complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy needs a victory at Augusta to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having claimed all four Major titles.

The 29-year-old has finished inside the top 10 on each of his last four starts and was in the last group in the final round 12 months ago, only to struggle to a 74 and end up six shots behind playing partner Patrick Reed.

That means his best chance to win also remains his worst memory of Augusta, namely when he squandered a four-shot lead in 2011 with a final-round collapse.

However, there is also no question that the Ulsterman is in some of the best form of his career after following five consecutive top-six finishes with victory in the Players Championship.

And the four-time Major winner has revealed how meditation, juggling and a wide variety of reading material helped him end a number of final-day failures and triumph at Sawgrass.

"I'm not going to go and live with the monks for a couple of months in Nepal, it's 10 minutes a day," McIlroy side in a fascinating pre-tournament interview. "It's not as if I'm being consumed by it.

"But it's definitely something that has helped from time to time. Especially in situations where you need your mind to be right. I meditated for 20 minutes on the Sunday morning of the Players.

"My routine now consists of meditation, juggling, mind training, doing all the stuff to get yourself in the right place. It was actually cool. I was watching the (Augusta National) Women's Amateur over the weekend and I saw a few women on the range juggling, so it's catching on."

In juggling terms McIlroy insists he is a "rookie" who can only manage three balls at a time, but when it comes to the Masters he has plenty of experience of Augusta National.

However, he has also come to accept that winning a green jacket and completing the career Grand Slam is not the be all and end all of his career.

"This is my 11th year here," he added. "If I haven't figured it out by now, there's something wrong. I'm very comfortable with this golf course. I think one of the great things about this course is it forces you to be creative and I like that side of the game. I like to see shots. I like to visualise.

"The massive tall pines, the contrast between the green grass and the white bunkers, the yellow flagsticks, there are so many things to look at and be aware of and it paints a picture for you.

"And I know I've played well enough and I've shot enough good scores around here over the years that if I can put my best effort forward, I'm going to have a good chance to do well here.

"But it's definitely different (this year). I'm not getting ahead of myself, not thinking about the tee shot on Thursday or about what is to come this week and that's something I probably will never stop trying to learn or practice. But I'm in a good place.

"Again, I keep saying this, I would dearly love to win this tournament one day. If it doesn't happen this week, that's totally fine, I'll come back next year and have another crack at it. But I'm happy with where everything is, body, mind, game."

Meanwhile, three-time Major winner Brooks Koepka has revealed his recipe for success in golf's biggest events is simply to "black out".

Koepka missed last year's Masters with a wrist injury but returned to become the first back-to-back US Open champion since 1989 and also held off Tiger Woods to win the US PGA.

Three of Koepka's five PGA Tour titles have come in Majors and the 28-year-old seems to thrive on the pressure as he looks to add a green jacket to his trophy collection.

"I just keep it very simple," Koepka said. "Pressure is something you create on your own when you start thinking about the results. If you're not thinking about results, there's really no pressure. It's like practicing.

"The second you start thinking about what will happen if I make this, that's when you start feeling pressure.

"I never really think about anything. I kind of like black out sometimes when we're playing, I'm not really thinking anything. A hole can go by and I don't really know, nothing has really registered, which is kind of nice.

"I try to keep the same routine every week and the same group of people in the same house and it simplifies things for Major weeks because they are probably some of the most stressful weeks you're going to play."

The World No.4 arrived at Augusta National suffering from a self-inflicted problem.

Losing more than 20lb since November left Koepka feeling "out of sorts" and he admitted his weight-loss regime - rumoured to be for a magazine shoot - was too aggressive.

"The diet I was on was probably not the best," Koepka said. "I wanted to do it and try to lose some weight and maybe went about it a little too aggressively."

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