After making a return to winners’ circle, in dramatic fashion at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy was immediately plugged in as the favourite at both the WGC Match Play and The Masters.
To complete the Grand-Slam, Rory still needs a win at Augusta and on what will be his 10th start at The Masters, Rory will be hoping to be right in the mix for the first time since 2011.
When you look at McIlroy’s record, with top-10 finishes in his last four straight, you may find the comment of “Rory will be hoping to be right in the mix for the first time since 2011.” a bit odd.
Looking back though, that was really the only week where he truly looked like winning, leading after each of the first three rounds. A final-round 80 put to bed any chances of him winning what have been his first major title that week though, denying what will surely be the most memorable major of his career if and when it does come.
McIlroy of course went on to win the U.S. Open later that year and has four major wins in total, so he has put the sour memory of that final round behind him.
In three of his last four starts here, his best round has come on the Sunday, to enhance his finishing position substantially each time, so it clear he needs to get his week off to a faster start, if he wants to be fitted for a smart new jacket.
Why he can win the 2018 Masters
McIlroy putted absolutely superbly at Bay Hill, especially in the final round but that is the first time this season he has really excelled on the putting surfaces.
Due to his efforts on the greens so far this season, it had been a somewhat lacklustre start before teeing it up and winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rory started really well during the middle-eastern swing, finishing T3 in Abu Dhabi and 2nd in Dubai, but as soon as he turned his attentions to the PGA Tour his troubles began.
McIlroy played in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the first time and missed the cut, before heading to Riviera and finishing T20. The next start he made was at the Honda Classic, an event he had won before, but could only finish T59.
A missed cut in Tampa at the Valspar Championship followed that disappointing effort at the Honda and it looked for the world that he was going to struggle in his build up for the first major of the year. What actually happened was he won on his very next start, thanks to an improved putting stroke, following some changes made after a conversation with Brad Faxon.
He failed to build on that win at Arnie’s place, not making it out of the group at the Match Play, reverting back to similar form on the putting greens, so there is still reason for concern ahead of next week.
McIlroy statistically is struggling in almost all facets of his game except for off the tee, but on the evidence of his showing at Bay Hill, there is every reason to believe that should he get his putting sorted, in the two weeks he’s had to prepare since the Match Play, he could of course be the in frame for his first Green Jacket.
A man of Rory’s talents, some who say cannot be rivalled when on his best form, can never be discounted no matter what the event and that will certainly remain the case at Augusta next week