Stage set for Rory McIlroy’s grand slam questApril 8, 2015 News & Tour
The quality of the competition forms the biggest threat to Rory's quest for glory writes James Savage
After lifting the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship in August last year, Rory McIlroy made no secret that his attention switched almost immediately to Augusta.
Wind the clock forward eight months and here we are on the eve of the 79th Masters Tournament.
So what have we learned since those misty final moments at Valhalla?
Not a great deal has changed. McIlroy is still the clear favourite, the overwhelming world number one and the man everyone else in the field is looking to beat.
He managed a convincing victory at the Dubai Desert Classic so has a win to his name in 2015.
And there are two ways of looking at McIlroy’s most recent form.
He was obviously disappointed with a missed cut at the Honda Classic and wasn’t exactly ecstatic with a tied 9th at Doral or a tied 11th at Bay Hill.
However, I believe those last two performances were the perfect preparation as he continues his pursuit of the career grand slam.
If he had won them both, there would be an argument to say he’d peaked too early and the pressure heading into this week would have been almost unbearable.
With those results he proved to himself that his game is not that far away and he would have taken heart from the fact that 75 percent of his best was almost good enough to win.
It’s clear that, in this company, 75 percent of McIlroy’s best will not be good enough to land the Green Jacket" Another thing which may work in the Northern Irishman’s favour is the fact people have been taking about Tiger Woods as much as they have been talking about him.
I think there will be more interest in Wood’s first tee shot (or first chip) than there will be in McIlroy’s.
And what of the other contenders?
Jordan Spieth has been the form horse, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have all won recently and we know to expect the unexpected from Bubba Watson.
I think here lies the biggest problem for McIlroy. There are quite a few of his closest challengers who look in very good nick and all will be desperate to spoil the party.
It’s clear that, in this company, 75 percent of McIlroy’s best will not be good enough to land the Green Jacket.
He has a target on his back and there are a number of the world’s top players literally queueing up to shoot him down.
But on a positive note, McIlroy will be feeling confident that his A-game can get the job done.
I believe that McIlroy at his best will be too good for the field.
So the scene is perfectly set for what promises to be a memorable Masters tournament, whoever is sitting at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday evening.
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