Rory McIlroy relying on patience, Butch Harmon in Masters pursuit

League: Golf

Posted on: 09 Apr, 2024 at 05:30 PM

Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy will win a Masters title someday -- Tiger Woods is sure of it.

Woods was asked Tuesday whether his close friend will eventually win the biggest title that his illustrious career is missing.

"No question, he'll do it at some point," Woods said. "He's just -- Rory's too talented, too good. He's going to be playing this event for a very long time. He'll get it done. It's just a matter of when.

"But, yes, I think that Rory will be a great Masters champion one day, and it could be this week. You never know. I just think that just, again, the talent that he has, the way he plays the game and the golf course fits his eye, it's just a matter of time."

McIlroy has gone close to 10 full years without a major title after winning four in a four-year span. The Masters is the only prize missing from his career Grand Slam, and everything McIlroy has done to prepare for his latest shot at a green jacket culminates this week at Augusta National.

For one, he played last week's Valero Texas Open to make sure he is in tournament shape. He finished the event in third place, beating everyone but a pair of playoff participants, Denny McCarthy and eventual winner Akshay Bhatia, who ran away from the pack.

"I think it's been beneficial to play a little bit more this year leading into not just this tournament but the spring and the summer," McIlroy said Tuesday. "I think I'm a little more in tune with where my game is and where my misses are and how to -- I think, once you play a lot, you learn just how to manage your game a little bit better instead of if you haven't played that much and you're a little rusty."

The Northern Irishman has spoken about patience and self-discipline being key to the mentality Augusta demands. He was asked Tuesday how he'd manage wanting to win the Masters without letting that desire consume his thoughts.

"I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot," McIlroy said. "I think that's something that I've tried to learn. It's a 72-hole golf tournament. I've won from 10 strokes back going into the weekend. There's loads of different ways to do it. I think trying to, you know -- and, again, I've said this, this golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses, if you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, because it always tempts you to do something you think you can do.

"And I'm pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient."

A recent visit to noted golf instructor Butch Harmon helped McIlroy on that front.

"He's part sort of psychologist, part swing coach," McIlroy said. "Like I always joke about you spend four hours with Butch and you go away with two swing tips and 30 stories. But you always go away hitting the ball better than when you came."

McIlroy said he texts Harmon "daily" but he paid the coach a visit after The Players Championship to get an opinion on his swing.

The 34-year-old didn't have a strong start to his PGA Tour season, though he won the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour in January. Now with his form potentially peaking, McIlroy owns the second-shortest odds to win this week across several regulated sportsbooks -- behind only World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, with whom he'll play for the first two rounds.

After a second-place finish in 2022 and a surprise missed cut last year, is this the year McIlroy will prove Woods right?

"It's flattering," McIlroy said of Woods. "It's nice to hear, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game say something like that. So, yeah, I mean, does that mean that it's going to happen? Obviously not. But he's been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it. I know I've got the potential to do it, too."

--Field Level Media