Rory McIlroy has changed his preparation for his eighth attempt at a career grand slam and couldn’t be happier with the difference in his game from 12 months ago.
Around this time last year, McIlroy had turned to trainer Pete Cowen to find his form again after shooting 79, 75 to miss the cut in his Players Championship title defense and by Ian Poulter in the WGC matchplay event with 6 and 5 was beaten.
The move didn’t pay off immediately as McIlroy missed the cut at the Masters for the second time in his career, but he then won on his next start and clinched another PGA Tour title in October.
McIlroy started 2022 with four straight top-15 finishes and, after finishing 33rd in a weather-beaten Players Championship, opted to skip the WGC matchplay before competing at this week’s Valero Texas Open.
“It’s chalk and cheese,” McIlroy said of his form in 2022 compared to last year.
“I actually wanted to play this event last year, but after The Players and the Match Play I felt like it would be better for me to work on my swing at home and just work on my game because I have at least one had the opportunity to do that in Augusta.
“Well yeah, it’s very different. I’m much more comfortable with my game, I’m happy with where everything is. Everything seems much more settled.”
Since winning the Open Championship in 2014 to secure the third leg of the career grand slam, McIlroy has had seven attempts to win the Masters and tied with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to win all four major titles.
On all seven occasions, McIlroy has had at least a week off before the first major of the year, but this year he will compete at TPC San Antonio after a scouting trip to Augusta.
“I haven’t really liked the format of matchplay for the past few years and I just wanted to mix it up and still feel like I’m hot going to Augusta,” McIlroy said.
“I wanted my last competitive start before Augusta to be a stroke play event rather than a match play. They are two completely different ways of thinking, so that was also a reason.
“I was in Augusta the last few days and just went there by myself. I didn’t go with any members, I didn’t stay on the property. I just wanted to come and see the golf course.”
The length of the par 4 11th hole has been increased by 15 yards, meaning it now plays 10 yards longer than the par 5 13th hole, with 20 yards added to the par 5 15th hole.
“Obviously there are some changes on the golf course in 11th and 15th,” added McIlroy, who hit a 4-iron on the 11th green on Monday. “Three, 13 and 17 are all brand new greens.
“I just wanted to go there and just see it for myself and do some sort of exploring, which I haven’t really done in the past few years. It was good to be there, good to see the place.
“At least when I come and play this event this week, I don’t feel like there’s a rush to get there next week and cram and prepare. I feel like I’ve done most of my work, which is a nice feeling.”
While McIlroy secures his place in the Augusta field, there is one remaining spot up for grabs for this week’s winner, with Ian Poulter and Richard Bland among those in the last-chance saloon.
Poulter embarked on such a path by winning the Houston Open in 2018, while Bland narrowly failed to secure a Masters debut by climbing into the world top 50 after the WGC Match Play, despite beating his group in Austin won.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/its-chalk-and-cheese-rory-mcilroy-much-happier-with-form-this-year-ahead-of-masters-challenge-41504967.html ‘It’s chalk and cheese’ – Rory McIlroy is much happier with his form this year ahead of the Masters challenge