NCG debate: Will Rory McIlroy ever win the Masters?

The Masters

It's the big question on everyone's lips, can Rory McIlroy do it? NCG's Alex Perry and Mark Townsend sit on either side of the fence...

Why Rory McIlroy WILL win the Masters

Rory will slip into green at some point – more than once, writes digital editor Alex Perry. Here are five reasons why…

1. When he’s at his best no one comes close

Going in to the Masters last year McIlroy was one of the hot tips alongside Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. This year won’t be any different apart from the addition of Dustin Johnson to the favourites for the Green Jacket. When McIlroy is at his best he is streets ahead of even his nearest rivals. When you consider who might challenge him they all pale into relative insignificance. He likes the limelight of being the best in the business and he handles all the attention and questions with good grace and humour.

2. He’s no longer streaky

It used to be the way that McIlroy’s form was tricky to pinpoint. His eight-shot US Open triumph came a couple of months after his Masters meltdown; his first PGA triumph, also by eight, followed a run of missed cuts and lowly efforts in the big ones.

3. Long, high, straight…

We can always point to a short hitter having a big week at Augusta but the simple truth is that if you can drive it brilliantly then you will give yourself a significant advantage. Some of the abiding memories from McIlroy’s Open win at Hoylake were his crushing tee shots. He’s certainly added a few yards to his game since then. In his recent defeat to Soren Kjeldsen at the WGC-Match Play, McIlroy was bombing his drives, one even going 410 yards.

4. 2016 positives

The enduring image from six years ago when the Northern Irishmen crashed his drive on the 10th tee is still fresh in the mind of most golf fans. Since then, McIlroy has gone on to win four major championships, two Ryder Cups and last year won the FedEx Cup. Once again showing his ability to bounce back after missing the cuts at the US Open and PGA Championships.

5. Masters record a blip

All being well what has gone before at Augusta will turn out to be a strange, early career anomaly. If anywhere appears to suit his game it is here. The way of the world is to look for reasons why the obvious won’t happen. In time it will.

Why Rory McIlroy WON’T win the Masters

It’s not going to happen for Rory at Augusta, writes deputy editor Mark Townsend. Here are five reasons why…

1. The ghost of 2011

Other than being repeatedly asked about the significance of a Masters victory, the question of what happened six years ago will be raised again and again. The then 21-year-old turned a four-shot lead into a tie for 15th, courtesy of a back-nine disintegration. After a front nine 37 he still led before seeing his drive at the 10th ricochet way off course beside the white clapboard bungalows that are there for Augusta National’s members. A triple bogey was followed by four putts at the 12th before looking like breaking down into tears at 13. He eventually signed for an 80.

2. An ordinary record

So the story goes, the Masters only begins on the back nine on Sunday. Following on from the nightmare of 2011 McIlroy has never actually threatened in Georgia. Thus far his finishes have been T20-MC-T15- T40-T25-T8-4-T10. Given his repertoire of skills it is one of the game’s odd quirks. Or could it be that Augusta isn’t quite as well set up for him as we all tend to think?

3. History says it’s in the balance

How hard is it to win all four majors majors? It’s not uncommon for some of the greats of the game to fall short of a career grand slam. Many players have fallen short over the years. Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Sam Snead all won three of the four majors on offer. Phil Mickelson is still in pursuit and has come close to securing a career Grand Slam but he has continuously fallen short at the US Open. Only five players – Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus – can all boast about winning all four major titles.
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4. Will the putter fire?

It should be noted that he hits a huge amount of greens but his stats with the flat stick don’t suggest that he is one of the game’s great putters. Last year he was third bottom on the putting lists of those who made the cut. On the European Tour his best putting year came in 2014 when he was 46th. On the PGA Tour his 41st in 2014 was his most impressive to date. McIlroy ranked 135th in putting last year on the PGA Tour.

5. The never-ending wait

Since the Hoylake win the question of a career Grand Slam has been on the table. Then, after the PGA in the Valhalla gloom, he has had to answer questions about Augusta (and his now settled court case) and the prospect of winning all four major titles.

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