McIlroy rings changes in quest for elusive Masters win

Rory McIlroy in action. File photo

Rory McIlroy is changing things up when it comes to the Masters, hoping some alterations in preparation can help produce the green jacket that has eluded him.

The 34-year-old from Northern Ireland will make his 10th attempt to complete a career grand slam at next week’s 88th Masters, needing a victory at Augusta National to claim at least one win at every major.

Four-time major winner McIlroy would join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen in achieving the feat if he can add a Masters victory to his collection and snap a major win drought dating to 2014.

“I feel like I’ve worked hard over the last couple of weeks and I’ve made some pretty big strides, especially with some of the things I was struggling with,” McIlroy said.

World number two McIlroy has tweaked his plans for Masters week, setting up nine-hole practice rounds for late Tuesday and Wednesday, skipping the Par-3 Contest, to better rest and focus on the challenge presented by Augusta National.

McIlroy has learned his greatest weapon over the formidable layout might be his mind, not his iron skills or long hitting.

“Discipline, not being tempted to do too much, sticking to your game plan,” McIlroy said. “It’s the biggest test of discipline and the biggest test of patience of the year for me.

“If someone says I want you to go out and shoot 67 at Augusta, it’s very easy to shoot 75 or 76 because you start to chase pins, start to miss it in the wrong spots, start to not be patient and play the disciplined golf you need to.”

McIlroy went to Augusta National for a practice session before playing the week before the major at the Texas Open, learning about a second tee that was moved back and some renovated greens on early holes.

Advice by Butch, Poppy

He also took time to visit swing coach Butch Harmon, spending time with the former coach of 15-time major winner Woods for some different perspective on his game.

“I met Butch when I was 14, so we’ve always had a good relationship. If there’s one guy that I want to go and get a second opinion from, it’s him,” McIlroy said. “I just thought to myself I’m obviously missing something here.

“The one thing with Butch is you go spend time with him and you’re always going to feel better about yourself at the end of it whether you’re hitting it better or not. He’s sort of half-golf coach, half-psychologist in a way. He said a couple of things to me that resonated.

“Nothing was resonating with me. He gave me a tiny little something that I went with and it has felt a little better.”

McIlroy also got a nice reminder from his daughter Poppy as he went to see Harmon — he didn’t have to get a lesson, he knew how to play golf.

“As I was walking out the door on my way to the airport to go see Butch in Vegas, those were Poppy’s words of wisdom,” McIlroy said. “It sort of hit home with me, like yeah, you’re probably right.”

Getting back to simple things has helped him pull together thoughts about his swing without overthinking.

“I just needed to clean a couple things up in the golf swing and then it makes it easier to then not overthink and to let it go and try to get in that really good mindset,” McIlroy said.

“It’s feeling a little more cohesive I guess is probably the right word.”

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