Rory McIlroy is done messing around at Augusta National

He's been so close to a green jacket before, but now — with the support of Tiger Woods — Rory McIlroy is looking to finally claim the green jacket.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s only one way to earn a green jacket at the Masters, but there are a hundred ways to lose one. Rory McIlroy is on his way to discovering them all.

The fastest way to lose the Masters, of course, is to miss the cut, which Rory has done in two of the last three years. You could play a great round of golf when someone else is playing exceptional golf, as in 2022 (McIlroy finished second to Scottie Scheffler) and 2020 (McIlroy finished T5 behind Dustin Johnson). You could start the day in the final pairing and fade, as he did in 2018 against Patrick Reed. And then, of course, you could detonate on the final nine holes, the way McIlroy did so catastrophically in 2011.

McIlroy carries the hopes and dreams of an entire swath of the golf fanbase on his shoulders every time he tees it up at the Masters. The conversation on the grounds at Augusta National always runs like this: I think [current hot player] is going to win, but I’d like to see Rory win.

“No question, he'll do it at some point,” Tiger Woods said on Tuesday. “Rory's too talented, too good. He's going to be playing this event for a very long time. He'll get it done. It's just a matter of when.”

No pressure, Rory.

Rory McIlroy is grinding in preparation for another Masters. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy is grinding in preparation for another Masters. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

When the Masters is at hand, McIlroy veers between cautious pessimism and reasonable optimism. For instance, he called Woods’ assumption of his chances “flattering,” but just as quickly downplayed it. “Does that mean that it’s going to happen? Obviously not.”

Then, in the very next breath: “He's been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it. I know I've got the potential to do it, too. It's not as if I haven't been a pretty good player for the last couple of decades.”

When you’ve fallen short as many times as McIlroy has at Augusta, you’ve tried and discarded any number of pre-tournament strategies. He’s visited ahead of time, he’s toggled between resting and playing the week beforehand.

This year, he consulted with swing guru Butch Harmon. He played last week at the Valero Texas Open to try to keep his mind off the moment. He rolled into Augusta on Tuesday just about a half-hour before his scheduled media appearance. Most of all, he’s attempting to bring serenity to a course designed to wreck it.

“This golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses, if you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, because it always tempts you to do something you think you can do,” McIlroy said. “I'm pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient.”

Moments later, the normally loquacious McIlroy was out the door after barely 10 minutes at the podium. The tournament beckons. There’s no more need to talk about it.