Rory McIlroy Makes Augusta National Scouting Trip

Satellite images appear to show the 32-year-old on a scouting mission to Augusta National ahead of The Masters

Rory McIlroy takes a shot from the seventh tee during the 2021 Masters at Augusta National
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

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.

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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. 

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. 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.