McIlroy chases Career Slam at Masters while Tiger lurks

McIlroy chases Career Slam at Masters while Tiger lurks

AUGUSTA, United States: Rory McIlroy’s sensational start to the year, seven top-10 finishes including a Players Championship title, has him favored to win next week’s Masters and complete a Career Grand Slam.

But the four-time major winner from Northern Ireland figures to be tested at Augusta National by resurgent Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and second-ranked Justin Rose among others.

Third-ranked McIlroy, who turns 30 next month, has been a consistent contender all season and finally won at the Players after five top-six showings. “If I concentrate on me, control what I can do, good golf and good attitude takes care of the rest,” McIlroy said.

“And if I go to Augusta with a similar golf game and the attitude I’ve shown over the first few weeks of the year, I think I’ll have a great chance.” Oddsmakers like his chances too. Las Vegas Westgate superbook makes him an 8-1 favorite with Johnson next at 10-1 and Woods and Rose at 12-1. Topping that list would be a Masters Green Jacket to put McIlroy among those who have won all four majors, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

McIlroy had an epic Masters near-miss in 2011 when he led by four strokes entering the final round only to fire an 80 and settle for a share of 15th.

Since it became the only major he lacked, McIlroy has had to change his mental Masters approach. “I would have said a couple of years ago, ‘I need to win a Masters. I need a Green Jacket,’” McIlroy said. “Now it’s, ‘I want to win it. And I’d love to win it. But if I don’t I’m OK.’”

McIlroy was ousted from last week’s WGC Match Play by Woods, who enjoyed his best season result despite a quarter-final loss.

Woods, a 14-time major champion and four-time Masters champion, hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open but is in form after spinal fusion surgery to end years of back pain, winning last year’s Tour Championship.

Woods sees National as a much greater challenge since he first won there in 1997 and not just because it’s longer. “It’s way more challenging off the tees than it used to be,” Woods said. “Some of the strategy has changed. Every green has been redone since I was first there.”

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