McIlroy Outlines 'Negative' Strategy Required To Win The Masters

The four-time Major winner opened up on his strategy for putting himself in contention for a first Green Jacket this week

Rory McIlroy hits a golf shot
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy has outlined his strategy for winning this week's Masters, explaining that Augusta National requires "patience," "discipline" and a game plan that "feels like playing very negatively."

The four-time Major winner returns to Augusta in search of a first Green Jacket to complete the career grand slam, which he has attempted on seven occasions now from 2015-2021. His best finish at The Masters came in 2015, his first attempt at the slam, where he was fourth. He has a total of six top-10s in 13 starts at Augusta, missing just two cuts in 2010 and last year.

"Just patience, discipline, don't make big numbers," McIlroy said of how to play himself into contention on Sunday. "It's very, for me anyway, it feels like a very negative way to think, but it's the way to play around this place. You don't have to do anything spectacular.

"I played with DJ in the first two rounds when he won here in 2020. I think he was 12-under after two days. 12-under is a hell of a score after two days here, but I wasn't in awe of the way he played. It's just he did the right things and he put it in the right spots, and he held a few putts and he took advantage of the par-5s, and he basically did everything that this golf course asks of you.

"That's what this place is all about. It's as much of a chess game as anything else, and it's just about putting yourself in the right positions and being disciplined and being patient and knowing that pars are good, and even if you make a couple of pars on the par-5s, that's okay, and you just keep moving forward.

"It beats you into going for flags that you shouldn't go for. So, again, it's about being very disciplined with your approach play, knowing that, if you hit a wedge to 20 or 30 feet, that's okay. Middle of the greens, you hole a few putts, that's what it's about. It's about hitting greens. It's about playing to the fat part of the green, being somewhat conservative.

"It feels like playing very negatively, playing away from trouble, not firing at flagsticks, not being aggressive. It feels like a negative game plan, but it's not. It's just a smart game plan. It's playing the percentages.

"Look, Sunday, if you need to take risks, you take risks obviously, but for the first 54 holes, you just have to stay as disciplined as possible. To me, yeah, that goes against my nature a little bit, so it is something I have to really work hard on.

"I think that's what wins you Masters. You see the highlights of people hitting heroic golf shots around here, but that's just one golf shot. The rest of the time, they're doing the right things and being patient and being disciplined, and that's what wins you green jackets.

The Northern Irishman made his first Texas Open start last week to tune up his game under competition pressure leading into The Masters but went on to miss his first cut since July's Scottish Open. McIlroy described the missed cut as "beneficial" after two good days of practice over the weekend.

Rory McIlroy plays a shot

McIlroy said his Texas Open missed cut was "beneficial"

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"I think it was beneficial in the end," he said. "I learned a few things. Like you always learn more from disappointments or from times where you don't play so well. So, I thought, look, if there's a cut to miss, it wasn't a bad one to miss. I got home, did two really good days of practice on Saturday and Sunday, and actually felt a lot better about where things were heading up here Sunday evening.

"Yeah, if I had made the cut on the number in San Antonio and played through the weekend, I wouldn't have had as much time to practice as I did over the weekend. So, I felt like that was pretty beneficial."

The Masters tee times were released on Tuesday and McIlroy plays in the final group on Thursday at 2.03pm alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and Brooks Koepka. They go off at 10.45am local in Friday's second round.

Video: Things you didn't know about Rory McIlroy

Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5