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Rory McIlroy's Masters odds for Augusta don't seem to be adding up

By Karl MacGinty

It's far too early in the year to be talking of 'worst choke in history' or even making confident predictions for the Masters.

Martin Kaymer's crazy final-round collapse in Abu Dhabi, for example, doesn't even rate on the Richter scale of golf's most seismic slumps - namely, Greg Norman's final-round implosion at Augusta in 1996, Arnie Palmer's slip-up down the stretch in the 1966 US Open, Jean van de Velde's comedy of errors at Carnoustie in the 1999 Open or Rory McIlroy's meltdown in the 2011 Masters.

This is not to excuse the German. Sure, he was unlucky when two wayward tee shots landed in bushes on Sunday, requiring him to drop out under penalty and contributing to a double-bogey at nine and a triple at 13.

Yet a duffed approach that flew no more than 10 yards as he racked up that catastrophic seven at 13 casts further suspicion over his wedge play.

One must hope seeds of doubt sown on Sunday don't take root.

Kaymer's preference for playing key shots from off the green with his putter during last summer's march to triumph at The Players and US Open hinted at a lack of confidence with finesse chip shots. Still, even the greatest have foibles.

The trials endured by McIlroy on Abu Dhabi's greens inevitably led some to conclude that, once again, he'd been hobbled by his Achilles Heel, putting; super-slow motion TV during the third round even showed him striking the ball well above 'the equator' or 'sweet spot'.

However, any suggestion of a glitch in his putting technique was summarily dismissed during the closing 66 which propelled McIlroy to his fourth second place finish here in five years, one behind French winner Gary Stal.

After a three-putt bogey at six, McIlroy asked caddie JP Fitzgerald to assist in reading his line on the eighth.

From that moment, he started holing putts, making a hat-trick of birdies through the turn and three more down the stretch.

Here was proof positive that McIlroy's earlier woes were rooted in his reading of heavily-grained greens, a difficulty he has experienced before in Abu Dhabi.

The quality of McIlroy's general play was remarkable, given it was his first outing after a mid-winter break in which he didn't hit a shot in four weeks prior to his seven-day tune-up in nearby Dubai.

McIlroy said he had never struck the ball better on his seasonal debut, and hitting 64 of 72 greens in regulation, including 34 of 36 at the weekend, suggests his global domination will continue.

After another week's practice in Dubai, McIlroy plays Sunday's Abu Dhabi Pro-Am at Yas Links before heading back up the Emirates Highway for the Omega Desert Classic, in which he registered his first professional win in 2009.

Yet, for all his Middle Eastern promise, odds of 5/1 on McIlroy winning April's Masters (and clinching his career Grand Slam) are ludicrous, especially when one places his speckled record at Augusta against that of defending champion Bubba Watson, multiple winner Phil Mickelson, Australia's green jacket hero Adam Scott, relative novices Jordan Spieth and Jason Day and, of course, a recovered Tiger Woods.

McIlroy will one day win the Masters, probably several, maybe even April's.

However, he must find a way of scoring better on Augusta's par-fives, for which he is a paltry 21-under in 22 rounds (against 51-under by Mickelson in the same period), or discover a consistently safe route down 10, his nemesis, before such short odds can, in mid-January, be regarded as remotely interesting.

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