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Rory McIlroy vows to combine leisure time with hard work in bid to master Augusta on major return in April

Holywood star ready to relax with the Masters over, but also hit the range

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Seeking improvement: Rory McIlroy admits he needs to work on his game

Seeking improvement: Rory McIlroy admits he needs to work on his game

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Seeking improvement: Rory McIlroy admits he needs to work on his game

Rory McIlroy would love to be a "man of leisure" for the next few months but admits he will also need to work on his game after another case of what might have been in the Masters.

McIlroy's sixth bid to win at Augusta National and complete the career Grand Slam ended with a fifth top-10 finish, although his chances of victory were effectively ended by an opening 75.

That left the 31-year-old 10 shots behind playing partner and eventual champion Dustin Johnson and, although he responded with rounds of 66, 67 and 69, McIlroy still finished a distant nine shots off Johnson's record pace.

Since the start of 2015, McIlroy is 28 over par in the first round of majors and a combined 64 under par in rounds two, three and four, while he led the field in strokes gained off the tee through 54 holes of the Masters but was last in strokes gained approaching the green.

Asked what area of his game he would improve overnight if he could, the Holywood man unsurprisingly said: "My iron play.

"My iron play hasn't been great since coming back from the lockdown. It sort of goes right through the bag. It goes from wedges all the way through to the long irons.

"I had two five irons from the fairway on 10 and 11 (on Sunday), for example, and just didn't hit great shots.

"I'm just going to be a man of leisure for a couple of months. It's going to be nice. Lie by the pool a little bit, get back on the bike, get back on the Peloton. I've sort of given that a bit of a miss over the last few months.

"Obviously watch my daughter grow up a little bit and have fun with that. I'll try to get away from it, but there's certainly some stuff in my golf game that I want to work on before next year."

McIlroy only has five months to wait to get another crack at the Masters and hopes firmer conditions will prevail in the traditional April slot.

"I hope the course is much different in April than it is now," he added. "It's very soft.

"I feel like there are a lot of shots I hit this week where I hit my number and it would spin back off a green or it just wouldn't do what you expect it to do, so I'd love to get another shot at it in April and have the course play maybe more what we're accustomed to."

Champion Johnson admits his planned retirement is already on his mind, but wants much more major glory before it arrives.

Johnson recovered from a somewhat shaky start in the final round to cruise to a record-breaking five-shot victory, his winning total of 20 under par eclipsing the previous tournament record of 18 under set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and equalled by Jordan Spieth in 2015.

Following his victory in the 2016 US Open, the world number one is now halfway to the career grand slam and needs to win the US PGA and Open Championship to join Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen in having won all four majors.

"I feel like I'm not going to dial anything back," Johnson said. "I feel really good about everything that I'm doing. I feel really confident in the golf game.

"You know, my goal is to play for about, I don't know, (it) keeps getting shorter, but eight, nine, maybe 10 years, and then hang out with my kids and Paulina (Gretzky, his fiance).

"So until then, I'm going to work my butt off to be as good as I can."

Asked if he also dreams of winning numerous further majors, the 36-year-old added: "I do. I do. I want to get to number three first, but I do.

"I dream of winning a lot of majors. Just hadn't quite happened yet. Hopefully this one will help, though, give me a little spring."

Belfast Telegraph


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