Bunker Mentality

Spooky Irish omen makes McIlroy red-hot favourite for Green Jacket

Bunker Mentality

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Rory McIlroy at Augusta

Rory McIlroy has yet to banish the demons of his back-nine meltdown to lose the Masters title in 2011 - but an omen this year suggests that he has a great chance to break his duck.

That omen? Tiger Woods is not playing this week. It is only the fifth Major championship that the sport's superstar has missed in 18 years as a professional golfer; and the other four were all won by Irish golfers.

Those tournaments were the Open Championship and US PGA Championship in 2008, both won by Padraig Harrington; the 2011 US Open, won by McIlroy himselft; and the 2011 Open Championship, won by Darren Clarke.

"That'€™s a good omen," McIlroy smiled when told of the coincidence at Augusta this week.

"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.'"

Three years ago, McIlroy was in control of the tournament at Augusta for the first 63 holes, shooting an opening round of 65 and leading by four shots going into the final round, until a meltdown at the start of the back nine saw him drop five shots in three holes and drop out of contention.

Given they style of his game - hitting long, high shots, and with a wonderful touche around the greens - he seems almost certain to win the Masters at some point in his career.

But that might just as easily have been said of the likes of Greg Norman and Ernie Els over the years, and McIlroy admitted that he can't bear the thought that he could suffer the same fate.

"It has to be tough because you can look at someone like Greg Norman seeing Adam win last year," said McIlroy.

"Then there's Ernie (Els) 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 playoff 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 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."

There is another omen that could help McIlroy this year: the ice storm that hit Augusta over the winter brought down not only the famous Eisenhower Tree on the 17th, but also the low, overhanging branch on the 10th which ended McIlroy's first chance to win the Masters. And considering his decent form so far this season - even though he remains winless in 2014 - it seems the way is clear for McIlroy to earn his dream win.

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