McIlroy eyes first Masters title, not history
AUGUSTA -- Rory McIlroy has been compared to Tiger Woods throughout his young career.
That continues this week at Augusta National Golf Club.
Woods completed the career grand slam in 2000 when he won the British Open at St. Andrews. McIlroy has the chance to do the same this week in the Masters. So Woods understands; he has been right where McIlroy is this week.
“I look back when I did it in 2000, I couldn’t ask for a better place to do it at other than St. Andrews, the home of golf,” Woods said. “And for Rory, you couldn’t ask for the other better place to do it, which is here at Augusta. It doesn’t get much better than that. So he has that opportunity, and he’s going to have that opportunity for decades to come.
“But I’m sure he’ll have many green jackets in his closet before it’s all said and done.”
McIlroy claimed his first major title at the U.S. Open in 2011, two months after he melted down on Sunday’s back nine at the Masters after leading going to the 10th hole. The next year, he won the PGA Championship before winning the British Open last year (he also won the PGA last year).
If McIlroy wins this week, he would join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players to win three straight majors. Woods, Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus are the five players who have completed the career grand slam (Woods and Nicklaus have completed it three times).
“It doesn’t feel any different,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s the anticipation factor, the hype, everything else. It feels the same because it’s always exciting to get here. It’s always a great week.
“I think, as well, you come here to Augusta National, it’s such an intimidating place the first time that you get here, and I felt like I may have shown it a little bit too much respect at times, instead of playing my normal game and playing the way I usually do.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned, just try and get it out of your head where you are and what it means and just try to execute your shots like you normally do.”
McIlroy, who is 25 and ranked No. 1 in the world, certainly hasn’t played his best at Augusta National.
He made his debut in 2009 and tied for 20th. The next year, he missed the cut and then tied for 15th, 40th and 25th before tying for eighth last year for his first top-10 finish.
In 2011, he shot an 80 in the final round after shooting 65-69-70 to get into position for his first major title.
“Yeah, you can say that,” McIlroy said about Augusta National being a good fit for his game. “I think I’ve developed a game where I can compete at pretty much any golf course now. That might not have been the case two or three years ago. But yeah, if you’re looking at the courses, it’s the one that should set up the best for me just with my ball flight and being comfortable off the tee here, especially, being able to turn the ball over from right to left and all that.
“So from tee to green, you would say, if I can play the way I know I can around here and just have a good week on the greens, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have a good chance.”
That’s McIlroy’s focus. Not his place in history, just yet, or what’s to come down the road. And certainly not chasing Woods or even Jack Nicklaus.
“I don’t have a target,” McIlroy said. “As I said, I’m just looking for my fifth (major). And hopefully when I get my fifth, I’ll look for my sixth. At the end of my career, I’ll add it up and see where it leaves me, and that’s the way I’m going to approach it.”