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  • Alistair Tait

Will Rory McIlroy win the Masters?

Hard to believe Rory McIlroy won’t even get the chance at winning this year’s Masters, that we’re still waiting for him to slip on a green jacket. Hard to believe this question is on our minds: Will it ever happen?

Two answers: Who knows, and, oh I hope so.

As I’ve written previously, it’s hard to be a Rory McIlroy fan these days, especially every year the Masters comes around. Or maybe that should be every time the so-called “Spring Classic” finishes and McIlroy hasn't been fitted for the tackiest jacket in golf.

That scenario doesn’t usually play out on a Friday. Rory’s missed cut after his 6-over effort this year is the first time he hasn’t played all four rounds since 2010.

If ever there was a major that should have suited the Northern Irish phenomenon, it should be the one played around the course Bobby Jones built. Remember what Darren Clarke said in 2015?

“I think he knows he'll win there someday if he just keeps doing what he is doing. He has to win sometime.
“If he doesn't win at Augusta this year, he'll win next year. If he doesn't win next year, he'll win the year after.
“He's going to win there some time. His game is perfect for there. It's only a question of when. He's that good.”

Is his game still perfect for Augusta? That point becomes more moot as the years slip away. He has plenty of top 10 finishes, six in his last seven Masters before this year’s missed cut, but top 10 finishes don’t interest McIlroy.

If Rory needed reminding of where he ranks in the pantheon of great players, then his trip to Tiger Wood’s house before Augusta did just that. As McIlroy told the world, the only trophies Woods has on display in his home are his 15 major ones. No way anyone would have predicted Rory would be 11 behind at this stage, that he wouldn’t have triumphed in the tournaments that really matter since the 2014 PGA Championship.

McIlroy’s current malaise was best summed up by his lost ball on the 10th hole in the second round, when he carved his ball into the azaleas en route to a double bogey. That was Rory in miniature at present: totally lost.

Forget major championships, McIlroy hasn’t won since November 2019, the WGC-HSBC Champions. No wonder he’s slipped to 12th in the world. Worse, he’s lost in a maze of swing mechanics after trying to copy Bryson DeChambeau’s blast it to smithereens approach.

Why Rory would mess with one of the most beautiful swings in the history of the game is a mystery. No wonder he put out an SOS call to coach Pete Cowen. How long will it take the wise Yorkshireman to pull Rory out of his current fog? Who knows? If anyone can, Cowen can.

Rory’s main asset when he arrived on the professional scene was his ability to hit long, straight drives. First time Ian Poulter played with him he marvelled at the new kid’s fifth gear, that he could shift into it and gain an extra 30 yards. Rory no longer has a monopoly on that asset. So many of those around him can bomb it as far as he can, and farther.

A we know, there are no guarantees in this game. As this Masters proves, it’s not a given Rory will ever fulfil Clarke’s prediction and win a green jacket, or even another major.

Once again, oh I hope he does, and does, and does....

#JustSaying: “Sometimes the harder you try at this game the worse it gets, no matter how talented you are,” Paul McGinley on McIlroy’s current travails

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