Rory McIlroy has revealed how he has distanced himself from his usual massive Masters following as he looks to finally complete his career Grand Slam.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s start at Augusta, the Ulsterman – who has won The Open, US Open and US PGA Championship – admitted he is prepared to “p*** a few people off” in order to finally win The Masters following his heartbreak in 2011.
“I think everyone feels the same about The Masters as it’s the one tournament everyone wants to go to,” McIlroy said. “But this year I’m trying to cut that back and not have such a big entourage around me and not too many people there.
“I basically want to try and treat it like a normal week instead of having seven people in the house and renting another house for 10 people.
“It becomes quite a production at times and I just want to have it chilled and quiet. It might p*** a few people off but if it helps me win The Masters, I don’t mind that.”
The one pal he is keeping close is lifelong friend Harry Diamond, who took over his caddie duties following last year’s split with long-time bag man JP Fitzgerald.
Diamond, McIlroy’s best man, was meant to be only a temporary replacement after Fitzgerald’s sudden dismissal last July, with the experts telling McIlroy he needed a strong character to sort out his “course management”.
Initially, McIlroy agreed, before choosing his own way.
“A few established caddies were going to come down to Florida in the close season and I was going to spend a few days with them, but I sat back and thought, ‘What’s the point? I’m enjoying it with Harry’,” McIlroy said.
“Harry’s really grown into the role, he’s got his book and is doing his thing but, for the first time, I’ve now got my own book, with my yardages. I like that.
“Because now, when we are conferring over a shot, I know there’s no one else to blame and that is what I was doing with JP – blaming him. I’ve felt much happier. If I hit a bad shot, knowing I’m responsible helps me deal with it so much quicker.”
One trap he is not going to fall into is thinking that a Masters victory will definitely come his way.
“People would think it’s on my mind all the time,” he said. “I’d love the green jacket in the closet, to go back every year and use the champions’ locker room, to host dinner as the champion. Nobody could ever take that away from you. I think about The Masters the week before I play it, because that’s when I prepare for it.
“No one is owed anything, due anything, it’s not my turn. I don’t believe in that stuff. My dad always used to say to me, ‘If it’s for you, it won’t go past you’ and I hate that line because that’s not how it works. You have to go and do it yourself. It doesn’t just magically fall into your lap. Everyone starts on an even playing field on Thursday morning. Whoever plays the best will win.”
Meanwhile, Sir Nick Faldo believes a rejuvenated Tiger Woods will “threaten” for a 15th Major title and first in a decade.
Woods attended the annual Champions Dinner at Augusta last year but was in pain from leg and back injuries and did not compete for the third time in four years.
He subsequently underwent spinal fusion surgery, his fourth back operation in the space of three years, but returned to action in December and is among the favourites for the first Major of the season after finishing 12th, second and fifth in his last three starts on the PGA Tour.
“He’s going to threaten,” three-time Masters winner Faldo said.
“He has the potential. His game is amazing. I think he’s ahead of schedule. He’s been in there competing for the last couple of events. That’s the most important thing, you’ve got to climb that ladder and scare yourself.”
Woods (42) finished a shot behind England’s Paul Casey in the Valspar Championship and was in contention for a record ninth victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational until hooking his tee shot out of bounds on the 16th hole of the final round.
“If he really can put a finger on why that one is happening (and) erase that, he will definitely be in there,” Faldo added. “How he’s found five more miles per hour in club head speed in his 40s after a fused back is unbelievable.”
Article courtesy of Robert Jones. Irish Independent.