Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Pressure is for Tyres - Rory McIlroy

JP Fitzgerald and Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is certain that he will win the Masters at some point in his career to complete the career grand slam, but admits there is no time like the present.

McIlroy finished a creditable fourth last year in his first attempt to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four major titles.

But following the emergence of Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth and US PGA champion Jason Day, the 26-year-old would love to get his hands on a first green jacket sooner rather than later.

Irish Examiner sports editor Tony Leen poses the questions to sports journalist Denis Hurley and former European Tour golfer John McHenry as the panel discuss The Masters 2016. Follow @TonyLeen, @Denis_Hurley, @McHenryJohn and @BallTalkTV on Twitter. Video by Pauline Hallissey. Irish Examiner.

"I feel like I'm a good enough player," the world number three said. "I feel like I've got everything I need to become a Masters champion. But I think each and every year that passes that I don't, it will become increasingly more difficult. So there's no time like the present to get it done."

McIlroy admits he felt "exposed" by the hype surrounding his grand slam bid 12 months ago, when the return of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods was the main alternative focus.

Being the only member of the world's top five without a win this season has contributed to a somewhat more subdued build-up, along with a deliberate change in preparation in order to get off to a fast start.

"I feel like last year I didn't do much wrong really," added McIlroy, who did not visit Augusta before this week and opted for competitive matches in practice, the first of which he ended with a hole-in-one on the 16th on Monday against Chris Wood.

"I played well. I finished 12 under par for the tournament. But I was three over after 27 holes and that's not going to get it done.

"I think part of that was having so much expectation and thinking of the grand slam and thinking of the Masters, where I needed to just take a step back and relax and go out and try and play my own game.

"Someone once told me pressure is for tyres. The pressure I should feel is the pressure I put on myself and any outside influences, it shouldn't really come into play.

"This course is well suited for me. I don't need anyone to tell me that. So it should make me more comfortable knowing that I can go out and play my game, and that's why I want to be as relaxed as possible. Because if I am, it means that when I go out there, I can let my game just flow and express itself and if I can do that around this golf course, I feel like I can have a week like I've had in majors before and win."

Despite falling to third in the world rankings behind Day and Spieth, McIlroy is well aware that completing the grand slam will take him to another level, with Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson the only other players in the field to have won three of the four majors.

"To be only one of six people to do it, I feel like I've set myself apart from definitely the guys that are playing here this week," McIlroy added. "Obviously Phil has a chance to do that when he goes to the US Open as well.

"It's something that I'd obviously be very proud of and something that I feel would set me apart.

"I want to dominate. I want to go back to the summer of 2014 and play like that for the rest of my career. Whether that's possible or not remains to be seen, but I know that's a level that I can play at, and I'd love to be able to play at that level more consistently, and that's why I'm practising and working hard and trying to do that.

"What Jordan did here last year and the US Open and what Jason Day did during the summer and this year as well, yeah, I don't want to be left behind. I want to be a part of that conversation. I'm clinging on at the minute; a few wins will change that.

"Of course it's motivating. You don't want to see guys beating you. You want to be the best, so you want to go out there and win tournaments and try as hard as you can. But I feel like I'm close.

"I think it's imperative to get off to a good start here, especially for me. That's been the thing that's held me back the last couple of years, and I try to change that.

"I think coming back year after year, you do start to pick up on a lot and learn a lot more. This is my eighth Masters and hopefully I can use all that knowledge and experience to my advantage this week."

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