It all boils down to this for Rory McIlroy: He is prepared for the week ahead.
The Northern Irishman played 90 holes at Augusta National in recent weeks, and that would be before Masters week was even underway. He comes into the event in good form, and if anything is going to stop him at Augusta National, it’s not a lack of due diligence.
“To be able to come up here and play quite a bit of golf before this week and really get comfortable with the golf course, I always try to be as well prepared as I possibly can be for each and every golf tournament I play, but this week I feel like everything’s coming together very nicely,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully all of the good things that I’ve seen in my competitive play and my practice and my preparation I can put all of that to good work over the next few days.”
Of course, there’s a large difference between hope and reality.
McIlroy has never truly contended at Augusta since his back-nine collapse in 2011. That green jacket has eluded him, as has the career grand slam ever since his first chance to close it out at the Masters in 2015.
That chase for the career grand slam remains on his mind, but four years in he’s put it in better perspective.
“I’m an avid fan of the history of the game, and I know a win here and what that would mean and where that would put me in history alongside some of the greatest that have ever played this game,” McIlroy said. “But have I to try and clear my head of that come Thursday morning and go out and play good golf, hit good golf shots, have good course management, hole putts. If you do that enough times, hopefully that score on Sunday evening’s the lowest out of all 87 or 88 competitors that are here and you walk away with something that you’ll have for the rest of your life.”
If there’s another reason to think this year will be different, McIlroy enters after a dominating finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to secure another win.
McIlroy, 28, noted he could not be coming in on better form and that his putting has been so key in recent weeks.
“I feel as good as I have with the putter for quite a while,” McIlroy said.
That was aided in part due to a meeting with Brad Faxon last month. McIlroy says his relationship with Faxon continues, as the two played a casual nine holes together on Saturday in Florida.
McIlroy’s 2011 failure at Augusta also still lingers in his mind, but as a positive experience seven years later.
“I feel like it made me a better player, I feel like it made me a better person, it definitely was a character builder,” McIlroy said.
He certainly seems to be hitting all the right buttons. Now, it just needs to show on the course.