McIlroy banks on Irish luck
ON THE four occasions Tiger Woods has not contested one of golf's Majors, an Irish golfer has succeeded.
There was Padraig Harrington (2008 British Open and 2008 PGA Championship), Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open) and Darren Clarke (2011 British Open).
"That's a good omen," said Northern Irishman McIlroy, smiling. "I'm not that superstitious but maybe it gives you an extra bit of, 'Oh, I might have a bit of an extra chance this week'."
McIlroy, the heavy favourite at Augusta National this week, is certainly hoping that he enjoys the luck of the Irish and avoids the "jinx" that has befallen some of golf's big names, such as Greg Norman and Ernie Els at the Masters.
The Australian finished second thrice while the South African is a two-time runner-up. Both have gone on to witness younger players who grew up idolising them succeed at Augusta.
It is why McIlroy desperately seeks to become the first Irish golfer to be fitted out with a green jacket.
"It has to be tough because you can look at someone like Greg Norman seeing Adam (Scott) win last year," said McIlroy.
"It's why I'm determined at 24 that I don't want to get to that point when I'm 44... So that's why it would be great to win one Masters sooner rather than later.
"It's why I just cannot contemplate a career without a green jacket as the Masters just stands out from the other Majors because we go back to the same venue every year.
"And I'd be disappointed if I ended my career and wasn't able to go up and have breakfast in the Champions Locker Room."
Nature has also delivered McIlroy some justice for him to savour this week, especially when he steps onto the 10th tee.
Not only did the recent ice storm bring down the famed Eisenhower Tree, but it also felled the large overhanging branch down the left side of the 10th fairway that he collected during his gut-wrenching 2011 back-nine meltdown.
Still, the golfer does not need any omens to do well this week. According to his assistant coach Dave Stockton, McIlroy is in the best shape of his career with mind, body and equipment entering a major event.
"Every club he has in the bag, he is happy with and Rory is in a really good place, mind, body and soul," Stockton said.
He said last year's rally to beat reigning Masters champion Scott at the Australian Open was a key turning point - a strong finish to a year dogged by changing equipment and poor results.
"I look back to that Australian Open win as it was pivotal because not only did it keep alive a streak of Rory having won at least one event a year since 2009, but to end his year with a win was a great lift for him," Stockton said.