Skip to Navigation Skip to Main Content

McIlroy leaving nothing to chance

Profile image for Doug Ferguson
Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Rory McIlroy has turned Augusta into a second home over the last few weeks, twice flying in for marathon practice rounds that allowed him to play 99 holes in his preparation for the Masters.

Apparently that wasn't enough.

With violent storms forecast, McIlroy got up early Wednesday to squeeze in another nine holes.

He played them as though he were seeing Augusta National for the first time. On the par-3 16th, after hitting his tee shot to 4 feet, McIlroy hit putts to all four corners of the green from every angle. On the 17th, he stayed in the bunker left of the green hitting shot after shot to tees stuck in the green where the holes will be cut.

"The more I can just play the golf course and almost make it seem like second nature to me, where to hit the balls on the greens and where to start putts and know where the pin positions are ... the more that can become second nature, the better," McIlroy said.

And the sooner he can be fitted for a green jacket, the better.

McIlroy lacks only a Masters title to join five other players who have won the career Grand Slam, the most exclusive club in golf. Tiger Woods was the most recent member in 2000. The only player to complete the Grand Slam at Augusta National was Gene Sarazen in 1935, back when the modern version of the Grand Slam didn't even exist and the Masters wasn't even the Masters (it originally was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament).

He had reason to think this would be the first Grand Slam he won.

Six years ago, a 21-year-old McIlroy was running away from the field in building a four-shot lead until he collapsed on the back nine with a 43 to shoot 80.

He hasn't come particularly close ever since.

"I sort of a feel a little bit like what Phil [Mickelson] goes through when he goes to the U.S. Open," McIlroy said last month, referring to Mickelson being a six-time runner-up in the only major Lefty hasn't won. "But at the same time, I haven't finished second at Augusta six times."

This will be his third crack at the career Grand Slam since McIlroy won the 2014 British Open.

He was the favorite in 2015 until Jordan Spieth blew everyone away. McIlroy was in great shape a year ago when he went into the weekend one shot behind Spieth, a star pairing in the final group on Saturday. McIlroy didn't make a birdie in the third round, shot 77 and tied for 10th.

Far different from Mickelson's plight is that McIlroy is still only 27 and there are plenty of Masters ahead of him. His peers talk in terms of "when" instead of "if."