McIlroy plotting Masters revenge
31 Mar 2012 - 01:16:36
Rory McIlroy will have revenge on his mind when he tees up at Augusta National next Thursday a year on from being on the wrong end of a Masters mauling.
Leading by four shots going into Sunday's final round shoot-out and seemingly on the way to his first Major title at the age of 21, the Irishman was consumed by a tumultous metldown that left him in tears.
When the dust had settled, McIlroy had fired an 80 and slumped down the standings to a tie for 15th place as South Africa's Charl Schwartzel swooped in under the radar to steal the prize.
Many at the time wondered what the long-term effect would me on McIlroy of that golfing collapse, but famously he came out eight weeks later to win the US Open by eight shots and since then he has assumed the world number one ranking albeit for just two weeks.
McIlroy, currently second behind Luke Donald, believes that ultimately, he may even benefit from the learning experience of letting such a big lead on such a big occasion slip away.
"Last year's Masters was definitely a defining moment for me," he told europeantour.com. "It could have been a crossroads in my career.
"I could have done what I did on Sunday at Augusta and let it affect me and let it get to me, and maybe go into a slump, or get down or feel sorry for myself.
"But I had enough good people around me not to let that happen. It was a big crossroads for me in my career, and I was able to go down the right path and put things right by winning the next Major."
The win at Congressional propelled McIlroy into superstardom and his celebrity has been further enhanced by his enduring romance with Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
But all the signs are that he has not let the expanded media exposure go to his head, spending the winter break hard at work in the gym to add muscle to his slight frame and plotting his timetable for the year.
He started off in fine style at Abu Dhabi in late January, going out with Donald and Tiger Woods on the Thursday and Friday and closing well to eventually take second place behind upset winner Robert Rock.
He then reached the final of the WGC Matchplay in Arizona, losing to Hunter Mahan, and the following week he won the Honda Classic in Floria to take the world number one spot from Donald.
A third place behind Justin Rose in the WGC-Cadillac Championship on March 11 was his last tournament before the Masters and since then he has combined trips to Augusta with spending time supporting Wozniacki at her tournaments.
He feels sure he has the game to one day win the coveted Green Jacket that goes to the winners of the Masters.
"I think it's a course that sets up well for me and it would be great to have a chance going into Sunday and test myself and make sure that what happened (last year) won't happen again," he said.
"I feel like I have the length to take advantage of the par fives and my putting has become a lot more natural. I think that will help me at Augusta for years to come."
One authority who believes that McIlroy's time may have come right now is England's Nick Faldo who won the Masters three times including back-to-back wins in 1989 and 1990.
The quick rebound at Congressional last June was crucial he said.
"On the first hole he has a wedge shot exactly 128 yards from the hole. I tell you, it showed me a lot about Rory that he hit it to eight feet," he said.
"That was such a lesson for him and to go on from that and lap the field, that was incredibly impressive.
"So now he goes back to Augusta with all the mental damage cleared away, with all that knowledge stored from last year.
"Sometimes with Rory his right knee is firing around a bit and he loses his tempo. But, if he's on his game and his rhythm is good, I give him a heck of a shot at winning."