Nick Dougherty tells Alex Perry why Rory McIlroy can end his wait for the Green Jacket and Grand Slam
But while the first two will rumble on, when it comes to the four-time major champion completing his Grand Slam, Nick Dougherty is in no doubt that debate will be ended soon.
“He will win it,” he tells NCG. “Purely for the fact he’s a world-class golfer and he has plenty more opportunities to come.”
The next of which is in November after the coronavirus pandemic forced three of the four majors into the 2021 season. And Dougherty, who finished in a tie for 33rd in his only Masters appearance in 2008, believes the move plays into McIlroy’s hands. Indeed, 10 of the Northern Irishman’s 28 wins on the PGA and European Tours have come between September and February.
“A November Masters is a bit of an unknown quantity, and I think it’s going to play long because it’s cold in Georgia at that time of year,” Dougherty explains.
“This will be as good a chance as any for Rory because of his length and accuracy off the tee. It will all depend on how tidy his iron play is – and that putter needs to warm up a bit, because it’s been a bit cold since we came back. But he’s pretty tough in his mind, as well.
“For all the difficulty Rory’s having in winning the Masters, let’s not forget it’s one time a year. How easy is that?
“If you said to him that there’s one week a year now that really matters, all the other weeks can just be taken for granted – you’ll win some tournaments, whatever, we don’t care – it’s all about the Masters now. That would be hard for any golfer. It’s not like he can say, ‘Right, I’m going to use my best golf up on this week.’ He doesn’t have that choice, because that’s not how it works.
“But that’s the challenge he’s got, because it’s the only one that matters now.
“He has a game that’s very good for Augusta, but there are other factors – a bad draw, a bad bounce, an errant shot, not being quite on his game. But he has time to get this stuff in order, and no one is going to bat an eyelid at Rory having a chance. It just comes down to getting the job done.
“Time is still on Rory’s side, he’s not that old yet, and he’s never been in better shape, so I’m far from giving up hope. But it will get harder and harder because the players around him are getting better and better.”
Since four British winners in a row from 1988, Nick Faldo in 1996 and Danny Willett 20 years later have been the only players from these shores to slip into the Green Jacket. And it isn’t just McIlroy that Dougherty believes can end that.
“I certainly wouldn’t write anyone off,” he says. “We’ve now got a wealth of talent – Justin Rose has been close recently, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Wallace. If any of them go there and perform and have a chance to win, I don’t look at it and think ‘Oh wow, what a surprise’, I just think these guys are more than capable.
“We’re seeing a changing of the guard. We got so used to it being Tiger, Phil or Ernie. That’s gone now and we are seeing a lot of different winners, because the base layer of the top players is greater and there are more of them.
“In any given week there are 30 guys who wouldn’t be a surprise if they won – and quite a few of those guys are British.”
Do you agree with Nick that Rory will win the Masters in his career? Let us know in the comments below, or you can tweet us.
Rory McIlroy at the Masters
2009: T20 at -2 (72-73-71-70)
2010: MC (74-77)
2011: T15 at -4 65-69-70-80
2012: T40 at +5 (71-69-77-76)
2013: T25 at +2 (72-70-79-69)
2014: T8 at E (71-77-71-69)
2015: 4th at -12 (71-71-68-66)
2016: T10 at +1 (70-71-77-71)
2017: T7 at -3 (72-73-71-69)
2018: T5 at -9 (69-71-65-74)
2019: T21 at -5 (73-71-71-68)
Nick Dougherty was talking to NCG as an ambassador for BMW