McIlroy hopes extra distance might bring Masters title

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Rory McIlroy hopes a tweak to his swing could hold the key to his chances of clinching a career Grand Slam at next week's Masters.

The 31-year-old from Northern Ireland has captured four major crowns, most recently the 2014 PGA Championship, but hasn't won any title since the WGC Shanghai event a year ago.

A victory at Augusta National would put him alongside Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only players to sweep the four major titles in their career.

After watching Bryson DeChambeau win September's US Open with an emphasis on maximum distance, McIlroy made swing changes and club experiments to try adding length off the tee.

"From what I've done and what I've been trying, sort of experimenting with, it's the fastest I've ever moved the club, the fastest my body has ever moved," McIlroy said. "I'm just trying to keep up with the way it's going."

McIlroy has been working on how his right arm moves in the backswing.

"I felt like I made some decent progress," he said. "I've been tinkering or messing around with trying to get a little more speed.

"Looking ahead to Augusta, it's somewhere where you can maybe hit the driver a little bit more and maybe take advantage of that."

McIlroy also worked with a lighter shaft to help better position his driver and increase swing speed.

"I've always been pretty long, but I felt like there was room to (improve)," McIlroy said. "What I want to do is at least know that I have it if I need it."

McIlroy, who became a father two months ago when wife Erica gave birth to daughter Poppy, has endured a year of Covid-19 disruptions that pushed the Masters from April to November.

"Everything is just different this year. We have to adapt to what we're given and the circumstances," he said. "I think this is the way it's going to be for a while."

McIlroy missed a golden chance at a Masters triumph in 2011 with a woeful final round, then won his next major start at the US Open for his first major title. He has also managed five top-10 Masters finishes since but the green jacket and career Slam have eluded him.

"I don't feel like I put a lot of pressure on myself," McIlroy said.

"Having a really good chance to win back in 2011 and not being able to win the tournament since then and a lot of people say that the course is suited to my game and all that stuff, I think that's just perceived expectation from the outside."

- 'Preparation is key' -

McIlroy endured poor final rounds to share eighth at the US Open and 21st at last month's CJ Cup and a poor start at the Zozo in his last Masters tuneup before final pre-Augusta work.

"Preparation is key there going into the week," McIlroy said. "You try to get your short game really sharp and get everything else sort of following that."

Entering his 12th Masters start, McIlroy knows secrets of where to hit the ball and how tricky putts on the famed Augusta greens will break.

"It's just experience. I don't think there's anything like more knowledge," he said. "It's just being comfortable and having certainty of knowing what this shot or this putt is going to do."

McIlroy said he will work on limiting mistakes after tuneup struggles and that he relishes a unique Masters with only weeks since the last major.

"I like this more," McIlroy said. "There's not as much hype, not as much noise. We're right in the thick of the season. Everyone's just trying to end their year on a high note."