McIlroy searches for final piece of grand slam puzzle

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 05, 2016 5:30 PM

By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy will do jigsaw puzzles to kill the time before the opening round at the Masters on Thursday, but finding the final piece to a career grand slam is upper-most on the Northern Irishman's mind.

"I have many different ways to pass my time," world number three McIlroy joked on Tuesday, as he pondered teeing off in the final threesome in the opening round at 2.01PM ET.

"We are working on another jigsaw puzzle and we brought Monopoly to the house that we're renting, so there's a lot of really fun stuff going on."

There will be no games come Thursday, however, when McIlroy will launch his bid to complete the rarest of golf feats.

Just five men have a complete set of four modern majors and if McIlroy can slip into a Green Jacket on Sunday he will add his name to that celebrated list that includes Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

The only men apart from McIlroy in the field this week with three legs of the grand slam are Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson.

"It's definitely a motivation, to be able to put your name alongside those five guys," said McIlroy. "I guess I haven't been in a situation where I've felt the pressure of it, really, because I haven't.

"I didn't have a real chance to win the golf tournament last year."

Despite possessing a game considered ideally suited for Augusta National, McIlroy has never been able to produce his best golf at the year's first major, at least not for 72 holes.

He did not have a top-10 finish in his first five starts at Augusta, before finishing equal eighth in 2014 and fourth last year.

The 26-year-old admitted surprise that a U.S. Open would be his first major success in 2011, followed by the 2012 and 2015 PGA Championships, and 2015 British Open.

"This is one I wish I caught earlier I guess, I had a chance," admitted McIlroy, who led by one stroke with nine holes to play in 2011, before snap-hooking his drive out-of-bounds at the 10th hole for a triple bogey.

"I've got a great game for here. I hit it high. I can land the ball soft. I've got decent touch around the greens.

"You would think that this was a golf course that I can definitely win on, I know that. I just haven't quite been able to get myself over the hurdle."

McIlroy had the eyes of the golf world on him last year as he attempted to complete the grand slam, but this year is sharing the spotlight with others.

"There was probably a little bit more exposed in terms of eyeballs on me and media coverage (last year)," said McIlroy. "I play my best golf when I'm more relaxed, when I'm having fun out there and I'm not overdoing it, not over thinking it.

"I think there's a balance. You can obviously relax too much, but then the flip side, you can consume yourself with it, which I don't think is a good idea, either."

(Editing by Andrew Both)