In this article, Neil Tappin asks will Rory McIlroy ever win the Masters? He clearly has the game but so why does the Green Jacket continue to illude the Northern Irishman
For Rory McIlroy, the most significant moment of this US Masters was the first shot he hit in round four. Usually so imperious with driver in hand, his opening tee shot sailed high, wide and ugly into the trees way right of the fairway. He may have escaped with a par but in the nanoseconds after the ball left his driver, doubts were sewn and McIlroy’s swing continued to undermine his challenge throughout the final day at Augusta National. As the dust settles, it begs the question will Rory McIlroy ever win the Masters?
The irony of Rory McIlory’s 2018 final round failure was that it was his long game to blame. The Northern Irishman is undoubtedly one of the best ball-strikers on Tour and his power and accuracy off the tee combined with an arrow-like iron display over the first three rounds to get him within touching distance of Patrick Reed’s lead.
The truth is, McIlroy didn’t choke – he didn’t get close enough to Reed in the final stages for that. His swing simply stuttered – fairways and greens were missed throughout the round placing an impossible strain on his hitherto impressive short game. It was just one of those days – even the best have them.
That he has the skill-set to win the Masters isn’t in doubt. We have seen throughout his career that McIlory is a streaky putter and when his flatstick behaves, he is arguably the best player in the world. That his long game would choose to fall apart just as his short game rose to the occasion is an irony that only the Golfing Gods can explain.
The bigger question mark lingering over McIloy now is whether he can overcome the troubling memories of his near misses at Augusta. In 2011, McIlroy, who at that stage was major-less, held the lead going into the final round of the US Masters. His back nine disintegration was hard to watch and the 21 year-old recorded a disastrous round of 80. That he went onto win the very next major, the 2011 US Open was an incredible triumph of mind, heart and skill. It seemed that those major demons had been put to bed and a line had been drawn under the 2011 US Masters. Well, not exactly and we have been left asking will Rory McIlroy ever win the Masters?
Seven years after that collapse and the only major missing from McIlroy’s CV is the Masters. There is no hiding from the fact that this has become an anomaly for a player of his ability, especially on a golf course that seems so well suited to his game.
When Rory McIlroy won the Open Championship at Hoylake in 2014, the only missing part of the Grand Slam jigsaw was the Masters. Since then he has arrived at Augusta each April carrying a weight of expectation placed on his shoulders as much by himself as the golfing public.
When you add this expectation to the painful memories created in 2011 and then, to a much lesser extent, added to in 2018 you start to see a significant mental hurdle.
Will Rory McIlroy ever win the Masters? On paper this is a no-brainer – Rory McIlroy has everything needed to capture a Green Jacket and it would certainly be just rewards for a player whose popularity matches his God-given talent. If he can overcome any lingering doubts, it will surely happen for him. That of course, will be easier said than done.