Rory McIlroy believes he has come to terms with the size of his task as he gears up for a fifth attempt to join golf’s most elite club by completing the career grand slam.
McIlroy needs to win the Masters to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having claimed all four major titles.
The 29-year-old has finished inside the top 10 on each of his last four starts at Augusta National and was in the last group in the final round 12 months ago, only to struggle to a closing 74 and end up six shots behind playing partner Patrick Reed.
“It’s definitely taken me time to come to terms with the things I’ve needed to deal with inside my own head and I think sometimes I’m too much of a fan of the game because I know exactly who has won the grand slam and exactly who I’d be putting myself alongside,” McIlroy said ahead of his defence of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
“There’s maybe a part of that if I didn’t know the history of the game and wasn’t such a fan it would work in my favour, but that’s not me.
“It would be a massive achievement, it would be huge but I can’t think about it in that way.
“I just have to go out and play the golf course the way I know I can play it and repeat that for four days and hopefully that’s good enough to have the lowest score that week.
“I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the fact that I’m going to fail more times than I succeed at that certain conquest or whatever you want to call it.
“I’ve tried four times and I’ve failed, but Abraham Lincoln lost the first 13 elections he was in and ended up being the President of the United States so I’ve still got a bit of time,” smiled McIlroy.
McIlroy is taking the same sort of approach in relation to his own form, which has not produced a victory since Bay Hill last year but has resulted in top-five finishes in all four events so far this season.
“I’m very happy with where everything is,” the former world number one added. “It’s about trying to take the little personal wins. Leaving the golf course, whether it be in Mexico, Riviera or Torrey Pines, I left happy even though I didn’t win the golf tournament.
“If I’m on this path, which I think I am, to becoming a better player and having a better mindset and coming to terms better with perceived losses.... if someone told me you have to go through 12 or 18 months of this but come out the other side and you will have those five or six-win seasons, these 12 or 18 months will have been worth it.”
McIlroy also spoke out in support of the R&A and USGA amid the ongoing rift between players and the game’s governing bodies over golf’s new rules.
The R&A and USGA have already revised a rule which was only introduced in January after caddie-alignment incidents on either side of the Atlantic, while Justin Thomas became embroiled in a extraordinary exchange on social media with the USGA last week.
“I think the governing bodies are a very easy target right now and it’s very easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and criticise, but all these entities in golf are not trying to do anything bad for the game, they’re trying to help the game in some way,” McIlroy added.
“I think we all have to give them a bit of leeway here and say yes they probably made some mistakes, but we all do and I’m sure they will get it right eventually.”