GOLF NEWS - Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy plans to get out of his own way and use hard-earned grit to capture the long-sought Masters title that would complete a career Grand Slam.
The world number five from Northern Ireland said Tuesday he feels relaxed and in control of his game, but realizes he must seize the elusive green jacket in order to join one of golf's most exclusive clubs.
"I've hit it well over the past couple of weeks in practice up here," McIlroy said. "My game feels good.
"I feel as in control as I've been for a while and that adds to that relaxed feeling. You know that it's in there. It's just a matter of going out, just getting out of my own way and just playing with freedom."
A victory would put McIlroy, 31, alongside the only five men to win each major at least once in their careers - Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
"The guy is as complete a player as there is," three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson said of McIlroy. "As well as smart, knowledgeable and works hard. So he'll win and complete the Grand Slam. He's too great a player not to.
"I would be shocked if he wasn't in contention with a great chance on Sunday... winning a Masters will happen. And when it does, I think he's going to win a few."
McIlroy appreciates the praise but knows it will take one of his greatest performances to make the prediction come true.
"Nothing's given in this game," McIlroy said. "I've always felt like I had the game to do well around here. It's just a matter of getting out of my own way and letting it happen.
"You have to go out and earn it. You can't just rely on people saying that you're going to win one. Greg Norman never did. Ernie Els never did. There are a lot of great people that have played this game that have never won a green jacket.
"It's not a foregone conclusion and I know that. I have to go out and earn it and play good golf. Nowadays, with how many great players there are, I need to play my best golf to have a chance."
It's his first Masters since becoming a father, with wife Erica giving birth to daughter Poppy in August and the Augusta National showdown delayed from April due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Failure made him gritty
This will be McIlroy's sixth attempt to win the Masters with the career Slam at stake. He hasn't won a major title since 2013 and he didn't win his first until the 2011 US Open - his first major after squandering a final-round lead at the Masters with a nightmare Sunday.
"My grit has come from my failures, and I don't have to look any further than this place in 2011," McIlroy said. "I learned a lot from that day. I learned a lot in terms of what I needed to be and didn't need to be.
"I needed to be myself. I didn't need to try to be like anyone else... Failure. You can't be afraid of it. You have to embrace the fact that you are going to fail at things, but you should learn from them.
"I've had a nice little bit of success in this game but I've failed a hell of a lot more than I've succeeded. And that is why I have succeeded, is because I went through those tough patches, and you need to. You need to go through those tough patches to learn. That's where I've got my persistence or grit from."
McIlroy admits he was slow to recover form after the pandemic break ended in June.
"There has been really good stuff in there, but there has been some lackluster stuff, too, lapses of concentration," he said. "They're still handing out trophies at the end of every week, so you may as well try and play as hard as possible for them."