Rory McIlroy cannot begin to contemplate a career where he will be ineligible to have breakfast in the Masters Champions Locker Room at Augusta National.
McIlroy singled out Greg Norman and Ernie Els, who have both been denied such an opportunity and then witnessed compatriots who grew up idolising them succeed at Augusta.
It is why McIlroy desperately seeks to become the first Northern Irish golfer to be fitted with a green jacket.
“It has to be tough because you can look at someone like Greg Norman seeing Adam Scott win last year,” McIlroy said. “Then there’s Ernie, and he sees Trevor Immelman winning, he sees Charl Schwartzel win and he sees all these young South Africans playing so well, like Louis Oosthuizen going so close in a play-off against Bubba Watson.
“Ernie should have won in 2004 when Phil Mickelson birdied two of the last three. 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.”
McIlroy already has a bit of good news. A recent ice storm brought down the famed Eisenhower Tree, but it also felled the large overhanging branch down the left side of the 10th fairway that McIlroy collected during his gut-wrenching 2011 Masters meltdown.
He was told that the storm had brought down the huge branch from “Rory’s Tree” when he played a practice round last week.
“Whenever the members play Augusta there is a guy who has a beverage cart parked on the 10th tee and he mentioned it to me when I was up there Tuesday, before heading to Houston,” McIlroy said.
“He just said to me: ‘Oh that branch, it’s not there any more’ and then, when I looked, it was gone, broken off in the ice storm, and Augusta had to take it away.”
McIlroy has a bizarre statistic to back his hopes of winning. On the four occasions since 1997 that Tiger Woods has not contested a major – and the world No 1 is to miss the Masters because of back surgery – a golfer from the Emerald Isle has succeeded: Padraig Harrington at the 2008 British Open and 2008 PGA, McIlroy at the 2011 US Open and Darren Clarke at the 2011 British Open.
“That’s a good omen,” McIlroy said, 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 arrived at Augusta after a confidence-lifting final round 65 to share seventh place in the Houston Open. It was his best round in America’s fourth-largest city in four appearances at Houston.
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