In roaring form, Rory gears up to get missing Masters title
There is a Zen-like quality in Rory McIlroy these days as he goes about his business.
A fresh attitude towards life and golf has helped the Northern Irishman become the most dominant player in the game currently going into the Masters, the first Major of the year.
The 29-year-old has gained the most world ranking points (186.62) in 2019 –- a definitive stat on the form of a player. He has played seven tournaments, winning the Players Championship and finishing in the top-six in all six strokeplay events he has played. That has lifted him to No3 in the world, from No8 at 2018 end.
Since he won the 2014 British Open, expectations have gone up manifold when he travels to Augusta National. A win here would complete a rare career slam for the four-time Major winner, joining a select club that includes Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
McIlroy believes he is now equipped to handle another possible failure this Sunday. Such is his conviction that even the media has stopped questioning him about the pressure.
Apart from discovering the benefits of meditation, the basic ‘McIlroy Mantra’ is based on two things – he still ‘wants’ to win, but does not ‘need’ to win; and what he does on the course should not define him as a person.
“It’s been a wonderful start to the season. Definitely, consistency levels have been as good as they ever have been. I don’t think I’ve ever started a season this well in terms of finishes, and even stats‑wise, they are up there with some of the best years I’ve had,” said McIlroy, ahead of his 11th Masters appearance.
“If anything, it’s just focusing on the small things and not living and dying by results, and not getting caught up in trying to play perfect golf. Sort of maybe a little more acceptance, and a little bit of change in attitude, which I think has been one of the biggest keys to how I’ve played recently.
“It’s not as if I’m coming here trying not to win, but I know if I have the right attitude and goals that I want to achieve, the by‑product could be winning this tournament.”
What Rudyard Kipling preached more than a century ago, McIlroy is practising. He is able to ‘meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.’
Asked if his thoughts would remain the same if he gets into the heat of the battle on Sunday, McIlroy said: “I haven’t thought about it. I guess there’s a lot of bridges to cross until we get to that point.
“There’s ways to do it and there’s mechanisms that you can put in place that help you achieve your goals that aren’t just about the result. It’s about the process of getting to that point.
“The big thing is I am not my score; I am not my results. I’ve had a healthy dose of perspective this year, and that’s helped, either with great results like at the Players (Championship), or undesirable results of not being able to finish a tournament off; being able to put both of those things in perspective has been a good thing.”
McIlroy is paired with American Rickie Fowler and Australian Cameron Smith for the first two rounds.