The Masters: Rory McIlroy not guaranteed to win at Augusta despite Phil Mickelson backing

Rory McIlroy insists that winning the Masters is not a foregone conclusion despite Phil Mickelson declaring he was “too good” not to complete a Grand Slam of majors.

Mickelson gave McIlroy a glowing endorsement and believes it is only a matter of time before the Northern Irishman breaks through at Augusta National after several near-misses, most notably in 2011 when he led going into the back-nine on Sunday before his challenge was upended at the 10th.

McIlroy knows his game is well-suited to the course, no matter what the conditions, but he remains wary that several greats of the game never earned a Green Jacket, including Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Ernie Els.

Mickelson himself endured a series of close calls in many major championships before finally landing the first of three Masters titles at the age of 34 in 2004, when he rolled in a 12-foot putt for birdie on the final green to pip Els by a single stroke.

Asked if he shared Mickelson’s confidence in him, McIlroy said: “I mean, I’d like to think so, but look, nothing’s given in this game. I guess there’s no better person to maybe talk about, to sit down and have a chat with than Phil because he broke through here when he was 34 here for his first major after knocking on the door for a long time.

“I’m not quite in that scenario, but I’m looking for my first here. I’ve always felt like I had the game to do well around here and to play well. It’s just a matter of, you know, getting out of my own way and letting it happen.

“But as I said, you have to go out and earn it. You can’t just rely on people saying that you’re going to win one. Greg Norman never did, Ernie Els never did. There are a lot of great people that have played this game that have never won a Green Jacket. It’s not a foregone conclusion, and I know that. I have to go out and earn it and play good golf.

“I think nowadays, with how many great players there are, I need to play my best golf to have a chance.”

McIlroy admitted it was preferable to see much of the pre-tournament attention being directed at Bryson DeChambeau, allowing the four-time major champion to feel more “subdued and relaxed” heading into the major that has given him many headaches over the years.

And he also feels comfortable enough with the state of his own game, which he believes is in good enough shape to end his six-year search for major No 5.

“I think the times when I’m not relaxed is when I’m not feeling comfortable with my game and I’m not sure of some aspects of my game,” he added “That’s when you’re not as relaxed. But my game feels good.

“I’ve hit it well over the past couple of weeks in practice up here playing, playing a couple of practice rounds the last two days. I feel as in control as I have been for a while, and that adds to that relaxed feeling. You know that it’s in there, it’s just a matter of going out, getting out of my own way and just playing with freedom.”

McIlroy has played a couple of practice rounds at Augusta in recent weeks and revealed the course is playing “a little different” to April, but he is just grateful to be competing at the Masters at all this year.

“I came up here two weeks ago, and the course was very soft and very long then,” said McIlroy, who plays the first two rounds with fellow Bears Club members Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay.

“It wasn’t quite as warm as it is now, and then I was up last Saturday. The course was a little firmer, a little better, a little faster. And then it seems as if the days have went on, it’s just gradually getting a little more what we’re used to, a little faster, a little more bounce up to the greens, a little firmness to the greens.

“It’s still not the same as what it is in April because it can’t be. I mean, you guys can do a lot of things here at Augusta, but I don’t think you’re magicians. So it’s a little different, but you know, that’s to be expected, and I think everyone is looking forward to it.

“But I think everyone is just so grateful that there is a Masters this year and we’re playing it, and I think everyone is looking forward to getting started.”

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November 11, 2020, 7:00pm

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