Rory McIlroy is in a good place ahead of the Masters Tournament. In fact, the 29-year-old from Northern Ireland thinks he’s the best player in the world.
In the second episode of Golfpass’ “The Rory & Carson Podcast” released Wednesday, NBC broadcaster and avid golfer Carson Daly asked McIlroy about his confidence level ahead of the Masters and if McIlroy thinks he’s the best player in the world.
The reigning Players champion didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, I think when I got everything firing on all cylinders, I believe that I could go up against anyone and beat them,” McIlroy said on the podcast.
Rory’s not stressing about a Grand Slam
McIlroy only needs a win next weekend at Augusta National to complete a career Grand Slam— a major focus of his since winning his first major in 2011— but his obsession with peaking for majors has transformed into a healthy pursuit as he’s matured.
McIlroy won the U.S. Open in 2011, the PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and The Open Championship in 2014.
Referencing the first episode of “The Rory & Carson Podcast” which debuted on March 8, McIlroy discussed how he schedules his season. While McIlroy said his schedule used to engineered around the Masters, he’s reconfigured his mental approach.
“I’ve needed to go through that process for the last few years to get to the point where I realize I don’t need to put all this pressure on myself for one week a year or even four weeks a year talking about peaking for the majors and all this… I’m going to play between 20 and 25 golf tournaments a year, they should all be of equal importance,” McIlroy said.
“I’m going there to try to win them and I’m going to go through the same routine and I’m going to basically hit the same amount of balls and do what I do to make sure that when I tee it up on a Thursday, I’m ready to go and I’m as relaxed and as loose as I possibly can be because I know the more relaxed and the more loose I am, the better I play. I’ve got 10, 11, 12 years of stats and analysis to back that up.”
McIlroy also spoke of his more relaxed midset toward major events Tuesday ahead of this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event at Austin (Texas) Country Club.
McIlroy said he wants to win at Augusta National, but he doesn’t “need” it the way he once thought.
“There’s a difference between a personal desire and a need,” McIlroy said. “I would have said a couple of years ago, ‘I need a to win a Masters. I need a green jacket.’ Where now it’s: ‘I want to. I want win it. I’d love to win it. But if I don’t, I’m OK.’ And I think that is the difference.”
McIlroy, paired with Luke List, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Harding, will face List at 1:22 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Match Play.
McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are 10-1 betting co-favorites to win the Match Play, according to golfodds.com.
The subtle challenges of Masters week
Ahead of this weekend’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, McIlroy said he feels like he’s in good shape for the Masters.
Apart from playing the tournament itself alongside a field packed with capable golfers, McIlroy mentioned a few other factors that make Augusta National such a difficult golf course.
First, the hilly terrain.
“It’s the toughest walk of the year,” McIlroy said. “You walk 18 holes at Augusta and you feel at the end of the day.”
While McIlroy said the allergies aren’t “a big deal” in planning for the tournament, it is something he tries to be aware of. McIlroy said he has allergy medicine on hand and eats honey long before the event begins to try to counteract the effects of the pollen.
“A lot of guys struggle with it there for some reason especially,” McIlroy said. “It’s windy there. All the pollen blows off the trees.”
Rory talks Tiger, Na viral moment at The Players
Daly asked McIlroy during the duo’s second episode about the viral moment between Kevin Na and Tiger Woods at The Players Championship.
Daly, who said he grew up playing golf with Woods in Southern California, didn’t remember seeing Woods as loose during a tournament as he did with Na on the 17th hole during the third round at TPC Sawgrass. Daly asked McIlroy if he’d ever seen Woods that jovial during a round.
“I think since Tiger’s comeback, he’s really starting to show a different side to himself,” McIlroy said. “I think he’s just so appreciative that he’s out here because I remember having lunch with him two years ago and him saying to me, ‘Rory, I might have played my last competitive round of golf,’ and he had come to terms with that fact. And then for him to do what he’s done, people don’t give him enough credit.
“Surgeries, what he’s had to go through, I’ve seen that guy struggling to get up out of his chair, so for him to win again on Tour and do that, I think he’s just so, he’s just enjoying it so much more because he realizes that maybe he didn’t enjoy it or appreciate it enough the first time around and now that he’s got this second bonus chance, he’s really appreciative of this opportunity and he’s definitely showing a different side to himself which I think is awesome for the game and for him.”