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Rory Ready for Career Slam Masters Pressure

Rory McIlroy during his Tuesday practice round at Augusta National.
There's been no golf yet but plenty of news out of Augusta.

Aside from Tiger and Phil seemingly becoming new best mates, Jordan’s fixed his putting, Rory has found a way to deal with the added pressure of trying to win the career Grand Slam and Sergio is excited for the champions dinner.

These are the riveting tid-bits to be had on a Tuesday at the Masters as the seemingly interminable wait unfolds ahead of the actual golf starting at the year’s first men's major.

Monday and Tuesday are press conference day at Augusta National and almost anybody who is anybody is trooped in front of the assembled media to answer questions about all sorts of subjects, some of them even relating to golf.

The buzz on the ground on this particular practice day was Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson not only playing a practice round in the same group but teaming up to extract an undisclosed sum off Fred Couples and Thomas Pieters.

Mickelson and Woods aside, both McIlroy and Spieth endured what must be among the least favourite chores of the players in the week of a major and took questions from the press.

Both say they feel good with the putter (a concern for both earlier in the year) while McIlroy says he’s over the distractions that come with the added pressure of chasing the only major he hasn't won.

“There's all these little sub‑goals that, not saying they don't mean anything, but, for example, world No. 1 or these titles of being able to complete the slam or all this stuff, it's a by-product of playing good golf and of winning golf tournaments,” the Northern Irishman said.

“I think if you try to break it down to that, where it's you just - it's hard to treat every week the same because every week isn't the same, and obviously we don't sit in media centres like this every week and we don't  - you know, it's all - it's different.

“But I think you have to embrace that. You have to embrace and relish the opportunity that is put in front of you and go out and grab it.”

Spieth, who has proved an Augusta National specialist already despite his still young career, says the course brings out the best in him because it taps into his imagination.

Having laid to rest some putting demons last week at the Houston Open, that bodes well for his tilt at a second Green Jacket.

“It's not a technical driving range golf course, you have a lot of uneven lies and very slopey greens, and so you have to play a lot off of feel and what that lie gives you,” he said.

“I think that that's helped me kind of settle in and not overthink things out here and get into a nice groove, and it's led to some success at this event.

“So it is my favourite tournament in the world. I've certainly made that pretty clear going back the last five years.”

Garcia, too, would love nothing more than to go back to back though his mind this early in the week is more on the champions dinner than the tournament.

He revealed the menu early in the day (something which seems surprisingly interesting to a disturbing number of people) and says he can’t wait to be part of the Masters Champions club.

“Extremely excited about it,” he said of hosting the dinner. “Obviously it is my first one, but it's going to be so emotional.

“It's going to be such a tremendous honour to stand - well, to sit next to all those amazing champions and to Mr. Ridley, the chairman, and listen to some of the stories.

“And we ‑ I'm hoping that everybody will enjoy it.”

No doubt they will. But for us fans, the truth is the golf can’t come around quickly enough.


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