Relaxed McIlroy chases Masters and career Slam

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Rory McIlroy has a new golf attitude and a relaxed feeling ahead of the 85th Masters, where he makes a seventh attempt to complete a career Grand Slam.

The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland is relatively under the radar after falling to 12th in the world rankings without a victory since November 2019 at Shanghai.

"It feels a little more relaxed this week, which isn't a bad thing," McIlroy said Tuesday. "I realize I've still got plenty more years to do it."

McIlroy has six top-10 finishes at Augusta National in the past seven years, sharing fifth last year after battling back from an opening 75, his worst-ever Masters start.

"I've played a bunch of really good rounds on this golf course before, but just not four in a row. That's the challenge for me," McIlroy said.

"If I can do that and get my head in the right place, then I feel like my game's where it needs to be and I have no doubt that I can put it all together."

A green jacket would put McIlroy in a group to win all four majors in their careers that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

"If I were able to do it, I'd join a very small list of golfers in history that have been able to do it," said McIlroy. "I know where it would put me in the game and how cool it would be and I would love to do it one day."

McIlroy has started working with swing coach Pete Cowen, attempting to simply his swing, a focus on progress rather than trying to recapture the form that brought him four major wins between 2011 and 2014.

"That's a long time ago," McIlroy said. "It's not as if you can just magically delve back into it and bring it all back.

"This is the present, this is what you've got to work with, let's go forward from here."

McIlroy, 31, says he is smarter about what he does and why he does it in trying to his fades, draws and straight shots.

"I'm trying to see the big picture here," McIlroy said. "I'm obviously focused on this week, but it's bigger than that. It's a journey. It's a journey to try to get back to playing the game the way I know that I can play the game.

"This week is very important, but I'm still looking beyond that. I'm just at the start of a journey here that I know will get me back to where I want to be."

Cowen is working with him to forget technical distractions and simply swing.

"It's actually very simple. I'm actually getting away from a lot of technical thoughts. I'm actually going the other way," McIlroy said.

"I've sort of simplified it down to just making the right body movements instead of trying to get myself to get the club into certain positions."

- 'Better understanding' -

Once lost searching for swing answers, McIlroy has thrown out the list of questions.

"When you don't understand why you're hitting certain shots, you can become lost and you can start to think of all sorts of stuff," McIlroy said.

"I felt like every time I was going to the range, I was trying something different where now I feel like I'm on a path that's a little more structured and I have a better understanding of why I'm doing things.

"I think that has been a big thing."

Ten years after a last-day meltdown that cost him a Masters title, McIlroy welcomes bad memories as well as the good.

"The good, they're the memories you want to keep and you want to hold onto," he said. "But you have to take your lessons from the not-so-good stuff, as well."