Rory McIlroy will head into next week’s US Masters once again as one of the favourites. The Northern Irishman has won pretty much all there is to win in the game, apart from the famous green jacket.
The 27-year-old has made a slow start to his 2017 season, by his standards. A two-month spell on the sidelines after suffering a serious rib injury certainly hasn’t helped matters. The good news, however, is that he is now seemingly back to full fitness, and raring to go. You can bet he will be looking to return to the winners circle at Augusta National next week.
On the face of it, McIlroy has the perfect game to be successful at Bobby Jones’ masterpiece. He is incredibly long off the tee, has the ability to hit high, towering iron shots, and an all-around accomplished short-game. The one question mark that will always hang over his head, however, is whether or not he is proficient enough with the putter to win at Augusta.
Aside from his collapse in 2011, where he led going into the final round, McIlroy has never really contended at the Masters, despite racking up three top-10’s in his last three starts. He undoubtedly has the game to dominate at any tournament he enters, but the longer his wait for a green jacket goes on, the harder it will become for him to complete the Grand Slam.
Only five golfers have managed to accomplish that phenomenal feat during their careers – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. There is another golfer who McIlroy can relate to in his quest, however.
Phil Mickelson only needs a victory at the US Open, an event he has finished runner-up in six times, to complete a career sweep of all four majors.
The four-time Ryder Cup stalwart explained how he is beginning to understand the pressure that the the 42-time PGA Tour winner is under every time he tees it up in the season’s second major, as quoted by Augusta.com:
“It’s a motivation, to be able to put your name alongside those five guys. But I think each and every year that passes that I don’t, it will become increasingly more difficult. I sort of feel a little bit like what Phil (Mickelson) goes through when he goes to the U.S. Open, but at the same time I haven’t finished second at Augusta six times and he’s finished second (that many times in the U.S. Open). So I can only imagine what goes through his head when he turns up at a U.S. Open.”
Whilst McIlroy’s putting is widely considered to be the main reason why he has not won the Masters yet, there must be some blame attributed to the fact that he quite simply wants that green jacket too much. He should make every effort to learn from Phil, and his US Open heartache, because in 20 years time, he could very well find himself in the same boat as the Californian.
And one thing is for sure – the majority of golf fans would love to see that prestigious five player list become seven names this year. They both have the talent and mental aptitude, but the game today is so much more fiercely competitive, with anyone who tees it up fully capable of winning.
McIlroy and/or Mickelson winning the Grand Slam is not the foregone conclusion that it might have been a decade or so ago, but that will make it all the more sweet, if and when either of them achieve that gargantuan feat.