Rory McIlroy’s demeanour tells any onlooker he is not consumed by the pressure of trying to complete a clean sweep of major championships at his second attempt. As the 26-year-old himself put it: “Someone told me once that pressure is for tyres.”
Still, McIlroy is perfectly open about two things. He admitted on Tuesday that the loss of the world No1 status, originally to Jordan Spieth who has now been usurped by Jason Day, had stirred his competitive juices. McIlroy also conceded the longer the wait for a Green Jacket went on, the tougher the quest would prove.
“I feel like I’m a good enough player, I feel like I’ve got everything I need to become a Masters champion,” McIlroy said. “But I think each and every year that passes that I don’t it will become increasingly more difficult. So there’s no time like the present to get it done.
“I’d be lying if I said those guys [Spieth and Day] having success doesn’t motivate me. Of course it does. What Jordan did here last year, at the US Open and the whole way through the summer plus what Jason did during the summer and already this year; I don’t want to be left behind. I want to be a part of that conversation.”
McIlroy offered a smile when stating he was “clinging on” to the No1 and No2 in the rankings but his sentiment was otherwise clear.
“It’s motivating,” McIlroy said. “You don’t want to see guys beating you. You want to be the best, so you want to go out there and win tournaments and try as hard as you can. But I feel like I’m close.
“Jordan is a phenomenal talent. It’s my job and Jason’s job and everyone else’s that sits here before you to try to stop him dominating.
“But I don’t see that as my position, that I should be doing that. Of course I want to; I want to dominate. I want to go back to the summer of 2014 and play like that for the rest of my career.
“Whether that’s possible or not remains to be seen but I know that’s a level that I can play at and I’d love to be able to play at that level more consistently.”
McIlroy admitted his refusal to visit Augusta at all in 2016 before Monday morning had been set in stone 12 months ago, when he finished fourth here.
“I knew as soon as this tournament finished last year that I was going to prepare a little bit differently for it this year,” he said.
Spieth believes his own Augusta expectations represent a tougher challenge than those from outside. “I’ve done a better job and kind of gotten over external pressure,” he said. “It’s more the internal stuff that is trickier for me.”
The 22-year-old Texan admitted the run of tournaments that included the WGC Match Play Championship and Shell Houston Open before his Masters defence brought home a sense of potentially valuable reality.
“I was like: ‘Wow, there’s a possibility that I don’t have this Green Jacket back at my house any more,’” Spieth said. “It kind of fired me up a little bit.
“Just the jacket itself provides a little motivation, which is cool but at the same time, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to get. I didn’t take it for granted whatsoever. Last year, the stress was there but also the confidence was there. I think that it’s the same this year.
“We’ve already done it, so it’s not like I’m chasing my first major. We have two major championships now. So we feel like there’s an advantage, if we can get into contention against those who are searching for their first.”
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