Does Rory McIlroy deserve his status as one of the favourites to win the Masters?

With every passing major, Rory McIlroy seems to cut a more forlorn figure. The Northern Irishman’s quest for that elusive fifth major title continues to prove fruitless, with the US Open proving to be McIlroy’s latest failed attempt to get back to winning ways in terms of the four majors. 

His PGA Championship triumph in 2014 is the last time McIlory tasted such glory, at a time when many felt he was set to dominate the sport in the same way that Tiger Woods did, and Jack Nicklaus before him. Things sadly haven’t transpired that way, and McIlroy has struggled in recent years to assert himself at some of the biggest events. 

It is perhaps surprising, then, that he is currently listed as second-favourite in the 2020 Masters odds. After all, the Augusta major is the one McIlroy has never won before, and he has never come closer than when he tied for fourth place in 2015. His form in the two majors so far this year has been questionable, finishing T33 in the PGA Championship and T8 in the US Open – two events which McIlroy was heavily fancied to win.

Of course, the Northern Irishman’s results in other tournaments have been much better than his performances in the majors would suggest, having won several smaller titles and been at the business end of tournaments countless times. It just seems as though McIlory struggles with the pressure of playing at the biggest events, especially when he is considered one of the favourites. 

This was evident at the 2019 Open, held on home soil for McIlroy at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. McIlroy seemed entirely out of his comfort zone, as he struggled amid blustery conditions and ultimately missed the cut after a difficult two days. It was a huge disappointment for him to struggle so badly at his home tournament, and he will have been eager to put that right this year.

It hasn’t quite worked out for him so far this year, but the Masters offers one last chance to win a major in 2020. McIlroy will be doubly motivated for this one knowing that it is the one major missing from his resume, and he’s the kind of golfer who could easily blow away all opposition if he can find his best form on the Saturday and Sunday.

McIlroy has apparently been tinkering with his game in the run-up to the Masters, working to improve his driving speed, perhaps inspired by US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau’s experiment of piling on weight in order to improve his power and drive. 

“I think as a golfer, we’re so ingrained to trying to hit the ball where you’re looking, and I think with – I think that’s one of the great things that Bryson’s done,” McIlroy said. “Bryson, when he speed-trains, he just hits the ball into a net, so he doesn’t really know where it’s going. He’s just trying to move as fast as he can… and sort of making the target irrelevant for the time being and then you can sort of try to bring it in from there. 

“From what I’ve done and what I’ve been trying – you know, sort of experimenting with the last couple weeks – it’s the fastest I’ve ever moved the club, the fastest my body has ever moved.”

Perhaps there is hope then for McIlroy and his fans as the Masters looms large on the horizon. In this strangest of years, where golf’s biggest events have been threatened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it would be fitting for McIlory to finally break his duck at the majors and claim that elusive Masters triumph. 

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