Rory McIlroy ready to deliver at US Masters
Augusta is much more than a world renowned, award-winning golf course. It is golf’s equivalent of Wembley stadium, or the Monaco GP circuit. Win here and you’ve made it.
World number one Rory McIlroy knows he probably won’t get a better chance to complete his grand slam of majors, and it comes as no surprise that he is the 13/2 favourite with Coral, following his victories in last year’s Open and US PGA Championships.
The Augusta National is a whole other kettle of fish. It is mentally demanding, challenging and unforgiving. The margin for error is so small that one minor slip-up could be the difference between winning and finishing outside the top 10.
In 2011 McIlroy capitulated in the final round, surrendering six shots in three holes. A stage of his career he feels he is finally over.
“I think I’m better equipped now to handle it if things don’t go quite the right way,” he said.
“Mentally, I feel like I’m in a far better place on the golf course, and able to handle adversity whenever it might come my way out there.”
After last year’s victories the 25-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength. His second home now appears to be the gym. A once modest waistline has given way to a more streamlined torso and a toned, lean shape. There is no doubt this has had a positive affect on his confidence.
However, for all of his improvements, competition will be stiff. Up and coming Jordan Spieth, at 11/1 can push him all the way on his home territory, and the 21-year-old is a consistent performer. The in-form Texan is hoping to apply what he learned at last year’s event having exceeded expectations.
“Having been so close last year and having a little experience and riding some momentum, I hope to put myself in contention and use what I’ve learned since last year,” said the 21-year-old Texan.
“At last year’s event, I certainly took a couple things out of it, as well as the positives that came from closing out a couple of tournaments at the end of the year and a few weeks ago.”
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, has sent out a warning shot to his rivals that he is going there to win. The four-time Masters Champion has been putting in exhaustive sessions on the driving range, though staggeringly is a 42/1 shot to win the prestigious tournament.
“People would never understand how much work I put into it to come back and do this again,” Woods said. “It was sun up to sun down, and whenever I had free time. If the kids were asleep, I’d still be doing it, and then when they were in school, I’d still be doing it. So it was a lot of work.”
His old sparring partner and compatriot Phil Mickelson, is also likely to be a contender at 30/1 having won three times in Georgia. Last year was his most disappointing, having only recorded one top 10 finish at the US PGA, however is determined to improve in 2015.
“You’ve got to take baby steps,” Mickelson said. “The first step for me was getting my aggressive style back, getting my focus back to make birdies, and that mental intensity that’s needed to be able to get at pins.….and make birdies.
“Now that I’ve got the aggressive play back, I can manage it a little bit better.”
Mickelson partners Ryan Moore, and intriguingly, McIlroy for the opening two rounds, and it will be interesting to see what the Northern Irishman picks up from his older counterpart.
Australian hope, Jason Day goes into the tournament in good form and is well-priced at 5/2 for a top five finish, having already won the Farmers Insurance Open this year.
“I feel good this year, I have had the same kind of start as last year and have won again, which is nice,” he said.
“The only thing is, you can’t let the great start calm you down and make you feel too comfortable. You have to keep on pushing.”
Last year’s winner Bubba Watson, is 9/4 in the same market, though has said he needs to improve as a person after being voted the most unpopular man in golf recently.
Pressed on whether he thought this would have any affect on his performance this year he said: “No, I take it as I need to improve as a man. I take it with pride. I need to get better.
“And I think over my career, since my rookie season to now, I’ve gotten better,” he continued.
“But obviously there’s more room for me to improve as a man, and hopefully the next year or the year after I will. It’s a challenge. It’s great. I’m glad that it came out and it’s going to help me improve. So if it’s a bad thing and people don’t like me, then I’ve got to improve and prove them wrong.”
McIlroy doesn’t seem to have that problem. Oozing in charisma and typical Northern Irish charm, for the favourite, the stage might be set, but is the script written?
*Please note, all odds were correct at time of publication, please follow links for updated odds*