Despite amassing four Majors, some question marks still remain over Rory McIlroy’s career. Although he has 19 PGA Tour titles to his name, McIlroy’s last Major came eight years ago, and that is a meagre return for a player of his calibre.
The Ulsterman is desperate to complete the Career Slam at the Masters, which will take place at Augusta in April. There have been many failed attempts over the years, and expectation levels naturally soar for the 32-year-old in the run-up to the first Major of this season.
But can McIlroy put together the final piece in the puzzle? We will assess the chances of whether McIlroy will slip into the coveted Green Jacket.
It’s fair to say that, unlike the other Majors, Augusta has been far from a cathartic experience for McIlroy. There has been many a heartache for McIlroy. 2011 was a prime example of this. Going into the final round, McIlroy appeared to be in control of his destiny as he held a four-shot lead overnight.
However, at the time, McIlroy was chasing down his first Major, and nerves clearly got the better of him, especially on the back nine where he suffered a meltdown. His troubles arrived at the 10th after a wayward tee shot, and the next holes were played in a daze, as he made a bogey at the 11th, and then had a four-putt double at the 12th. He finished the tournament in T15, and 12 months later, the wheels came off in the third round, as he shot a 77 to drop out of contention.
Last year, McIlroy failed to make the cut, and at Augusta, he has failed to string together four impeccable rounds, which has ultimately cost him.
McIlroy’s driving has never been in doubt, but there have been some yips with the putter as well as struggles with his short game. There has been a significant change to his golf bag in the past month, as he seeks to shake things up. After ranking a dismal 71st last year for strokes gained around the green on the PGA Tour, McIlroy has switched up two of his lofted clubs.
McIlroy had been using TaylorMade’s Milled Grind 2 (MG2) wedges in 54 and 58 degrees, but instead, he is now utilising the company’s more recent MG3 models. With the new wedges, McIlroy has elected for more bounce, so ultimately it will depend on how Augusta plays. It will be fascinating to see what difference McIlroy’s change in wedges will make.
Shot at Redemption
McIlroy’s troubles at Augusta have been well documented, and he will be hoping it is the 14th time lucky for him this year. One of the biggest flaws in McIlroy’s game, is his inability to string together a solid final round. Of course, the McIlroy of 2011 is in stark contrast to that of the one in 2022.
A cursory glance at the Masters 2022 outright market shows that the bookmakers are broadly on the same page when it comes to rating McIlroy’s chances of Augusta success. bet365 and 888Sport have both priced McIlroy at 14/1, and this could be one of the most open Masters to date, judging by the quality of the field.
Collin Morikawa is also quoted at 14/1 with bet365, but there are a plethora of young players, who will be looking to collect their first major. That includes Xander Schauffele, whose best finish at the Masters was T2 two years ago, while Viktor Hovland has enjoyed a meteoric rise on the PGA Tour over the past 18 months.
Perhaps McIlroy has put too much pressure on himself to win the Masters, and while outside noises can be a distraction, maybe, just maybe, his time might have arrived, and he will slip into the Green Jacket that has eluded him for so long.