Rory McIlroy has apparently been spotted on a scouting trip to Augusta National in advance of next week’s Masters. Satellite images of what appears to be the 32-year-old were captured by Eureka Earth as his preparations for the first Major of the year intensify.
While the alleged sighting is unconfirmed, if it indeed was the Northern Irishman, it certainly demonstrates he’s taking his preparations seriously – and not without good reason, as McIlroy only needs The Masters to complete a career Grand Slam.
A photo posted by on
McIlroy is putting the finishing touches to his preparations for this year’s tournament by appearing at this week’s Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2013. At the time he announced that decision, he made it clear it was with one eye on The Masters. He said: ”I will definitely play San Antonio. If you don’t get through your group in the Match Play, it means almost two weeks off before arguably the biggest stroke play event of the year, and that’s a little too much for me. I’m going to play my way into the Masters”.
This week’s event takes place over 1,000 miles west of Augusta National, but McIlroy – who appeared to be accompanied by caddie Harry Diamond on the visit, suggesting he could have played a practice round – will hope the trip proves worthwhile. At the very least, he’ll certainly have noticed a couple of changes to the course from last year’s tournament, with the 11th and 15th holes having been lengthened in time for this year’s event.
McIlroy’s last tournament was The Players Championship earlier in the month where he finished tied for 33rd, suggesting work was needed to find his best form. There have been recent signs that’s not too far away, though. The week before that, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy shot a seven-under par first round of 65 to lead the tournament at that stage. He couldn’t build on that start, eventually finishing tied for 13th, but that will have offered encouragement that he is not far away from his best.
McIlroy has dropped to ninth in the world rankings from a high of fifth for the year so far, and hasn’t won a tournament since last October’s CJ Cup@Summit. His best performance in the year to date was his third-place finish at the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic. His strongest performance at Augusta National to date came in 2015, when he finished fourth, but he hasn’t claimed a Major since the year before that, when he won the PGA Championship and Open Championship. He’ll hope his meticulous preparations for this year's tournament mean that barren spell could finally be about to draw to a close.
Following McIlroy's apparent visit to Augusta National, there is also speculation as to whether Tiger Woods will make a similar trip, with a Twitter account dedicated to tracking Woods, TWLEGION, suggesting a visit could be imminent.
🚨After Rory scouted Augusta today, have heard that tomorrow might be Tiger’s turn.March 28, 2022
Woods is still listed in the field at present, with the Golf Channel's Todd Lewis suggesting he's exhausting every effort to play this year's tournament.
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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