Rory McIlroy is determined to emulate golf legends Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer as he bids for Masters glory on his 10th appearance.
McIlroy is encouraged by his recent form leading into the first major of the year, particularly his improved putting which powered him to victory at Bay Hill last month, and he also possesses the fourth-best scoring record of all-time in the tournament.
Two-time Masters champion Hogan and three-time winner Snead both won their first titles on their 10th trip to Augusta National, while the late, great Palmer won the first of his four Green Jackets at the age of 28 – the same age as McIlroy.
But the world No 7 was keen to play down the comparisons and insisted he was fully focused on maintaining his impressive form and trying to “earn” the one major title that has eluded him so far.
“There are loads of different numbers you could throw around,” McIlroy told a pre-tournament press conference. “As you said, Hogan and Snead won on their 10th go. Arnold won his first Masters at 28, so there’s a lot of different comparisons you could make. But it’s all really meaningless unless you go out there and actually do it.
“But I feel like I’ve been here long enough and I’ve played enough rounds around here to know how to play this golf course well and well enough to win. I never come in here thinking I’ve served my time and that this is my turn, because it’s never your turn. You have to go out and get it.
“It’s not going to fall into your lap, you have to go out and win the Masters and you have to go and earn it. And I’m here this week to earn it all.”
The build-up to the Masters has been dominated by the number of high-profile players that have been in good form since the turn of the year, with the likes of McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson all peaking at the right time.
But McIlroy feels he is not “under the radar” and believes his form and preparation could not have been better.
“Golf is in such a healthy place right now with all the guys that you mentioned, so I’m happy to be a part of that conversation,” he added. “But I don’t feel like I’m under any sort of radar. I’ve come here with one goal, and that is to win the tournament, and I’m sure everyone here has the same goals and objectives.
“And I feel like I’m coming in here in great form and excited to have another chance to try and win this great tournament. I couldn’t come in here with better form. It was great to get a win a couple of weeks ago, and hopefully I can just carry that golf forward for the next few days.
“This is my 10th Masters, so I know the golf course pretty well. But I’m very comfortable, and I feel as prepared as I ever have, and I’m just excited to hit that first tee shot on Thursday afternoon.”
McIlroy sought advice on putting from Brad Faxon ahead of his first win in almost 18 months at Bay Hill, and he is confident of producing a similar performance on the slick greens at Augusta.
“I’m just thinking less about it, not trying as hard, being a little more instinctive and reactive,” he said. “And that’s something you need to do very well on these greens at Augusta.
“I feel like I found something with my putting over the past few weeks, and in good time, because obviously you need to putt these greens very well, and I feel as good as I have with the putter for quite a while.
“So if you can be comfortable on these greens, you can be comfortable on any greens. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the week holds.”
Live Masters – Par Three Tournament
April 4, 2018, 7:00pm
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