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You've heard the quote about the definition of insanity. Undoubtedly, so has Rory McIlroy. And so, in search of a different result, a first Masters win, McIlroy has changed his approach to the year's first major.
He didn't make a pre-tournament week scouting trip to Augusta.
He's not playing in the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday.
He's playing the golf course like a tournament round when he practices instead of taking mulligan after mulligan when he hits lousy shots.
McIlroy is trying to eliminate distractions and reduce the kind of self-imposed pressure that may have doomed him in the past. The four-time major winner knows Augusta National is tailored to his strengths -- high ball flight, massive length, modest mid-range putting.
"I get that this course is well-suited for me," he said. "I don't need anyone to tell me that. I feel like I've got everything I need to become a Masters champion. But every year that passes that I don't, it will become increasingly more difficult. So there's no time like the present to get it done."
However, with the rise of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, that it's not going to get any easier to win a green jacket and become the sixth golfer to complete the career Grand Slam. Even though McIlroy is just 27, the clock is ticking.
"I'd be lying if I said those guys having success doesn't motivate me," McIlroy said Tuesday. "Of course it does. I don't want to be left behind. I'm clinging on at the moment. A few wins will change that."
He didn't win last year, following a second-half sweep of the majors in 2014. A high ankle sprain suffered while playing soccer with friends earned him the distinction of being the first British Open winner since Ben Hogan in 1953 -- who won in his only career appearance -- to not defend his title. Neither Spieth nor Day won that Open at St. Andrews, though each was vey close. But world Nos. 1 and 2 did manage to win the other three majors. McIlroy clearly took note.
His awareness, then, is what he's fighting this week -- and what he's been fighting for months. McIlroy has flailed about in two final rounds, one at Riviera and the other at Doral, in which he had a chance to win. He went to a left-hand-low putting stroke in hopes of making more mid- and long-range putts, akin to what Spieth and Day seem to do so often.
McIlroy also knows that he posted his best-ever finish in this event last year, a distant fourth to Spieth. Perhaps, looking back, he realized it was easier for him to perform in a major when he didn't try to outwit his natural talent and just saw where it took him at the end of the week.
“I really feel like I play my best golf when I’m more relaxed, when I’m having fun out there and I’m not overdoing it, not overthinking it,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “It’s a very special event and obviously it is different in its own way, but I don’t want to treat it any differently.”
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