Yes, says Mark Townsend
You might look at the past four years and see four top 10s and think Rory has been a force here in recent years but, while it’s impressive, it’s misleading in terms of finally getting over the line here.
The T8 in 2014, that was down to a closing 69 and he finished eight back. In 2015 he was 4th after a weekend of 68-66, he was still six adrift of Jordan Spieth. The T10 two years ago he was six off Danny Willett and was never on the leaderboard and then last year another closing 69 got him to within six of Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
So yes, this is all much more promising. Even with the win at Bay Hill he’s come in more under the radar than other years and he said at the start of the week he had to make a faster start than in recent years and he’s done that. Better still he’s only dropped two shots and is quite disappointed that he’s not a few shots better off.
His driving is always going to look supreme but his short game and putting seem to be firing and the putts that aren’t dropping have had a great pace on them.
What’s not to like about what we’ve seen thus far? He’ll definitely win a few of these, let’s hope this year is the start of that.
No, says James Savage
Yes, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in each of his last four visits to Augusta National. Not bad for someone who supposedly struggles around here.
Maybe 2014, the year of Spieth’s debut, was when McIlroy really needed to take advantage.
If you think back to that year – where he finished in a tie for 8th – these were a few other players between him and eventual winner Bubba Watson: Bernhard Langer, Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jonas Blixt.
But the main obstacles standing in his way this time are Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Ryder Cup nemesis Patrick Reed.
Since 2014, Spieth has only become more of a factor each year.
He’s had a similar meltdown to McIlroy in 2011 which he will have learned a lot from but he, most importantly, already has a Green Jacket.
If Spieth was nowhere to be seen on the leaderboard then I’d be making McIlroy a hot favourite.
But if Spieth doesn’t last the course then there are more than a couple of other world class players lurking.
And with the pressure of the Grand Slam on his shoulders, it could just prove to be too much for McIlroy.