Nick Faldo believes Rory McIlroy has at least another decade of Masters chances

By Sports Desk April 08, 2024

Sir Nick Faldo believes Rory McIlroy has at least another decade of opportunities to win the Masters, despite the scar tissue from his previous attempts.

McIlroy famously squandered a four-shot lead in the final round in 2011 and has recorded six top 10s at Augusta National since victory in the 2014 Open left him needing a green jacket to complete a career grand slam.

The world number two finished second behind Scottie Scheffler in 2022 thanks to a thrilling final round of 64 and is second favourite behind the same player this week after finishing third in the Texas Open on Sunday.

Asked if McIlroy, who will turn 35 next month, was running out of chances to win the Masters, Faldo said: “I disagree.

“The game has changed. We have brought the physical element in and we understand the physical side.

“It was always 30-35 when you were in your prime and he is still in his prime. They are so fit and trained now so he has got at least another 10 years I would say of being supersonically fit.

“I still think the problem is times gone by. We are nearly 10 years now since his last major. That is the problem.

“Unfortunately it’s just going on, time after time. It’s not just this season. There’s four or five or six years of scar tissue now, of Rory coming in as favourite, playing great.

“He has tried his best at times. ‘Can I re-set, can I literally forget the past, who I am? Look how talented I am and go and play golf again’. It is not that easy. Can you turn back the clock? Can you delete all the negativity that you have seen and felt?

“I think there is a way where he could find his stride because, as we know, when he finds that stride and gets that trust, then he is phenomenal. I bet that is all he wants to do – just set me free.”

To achieve that goal Faldo believes McIlroy has done the right thing by stepping down from his role on the PGA Tour’s policy board after almost two years of being the most prominent figure in the Tour’s fight with LIV Golf.

But the six-time major winner remains incredulous that McIlroy agreed to conduct a live “walk and talk” interview during the first round of last year’s Masters, an event in which he went on to miss the cut.

“I didn’t like it,” Faldo added. “I thought, ‘You’re kidding me! The Masters?’. Sure, do that any other week but why the Masters?

“I mean, that is one of the most beautiful things about the Masters. It’s you and your caddie, just the two of you and the other players. That’s all that’s inside the ropes.

“And to suddenly bring other people in? Because that’s got to be organised, hasn’t it? And this sort of thing, your manager is going to say to you before, ‘Will you do this?’. Gosh, no, you need 100 per cent concentration.

“I think he’s trying to put priorities into golf. You’ve got to look out. You have a window as an athlete, don’t you? You’ve got tons of time once you’ve stopped playing your sport to go and do all your other stuff.

“But while you’re an athlete, give it 100 per cent. That was kind of my attitude. You know, once you get your mind into other things, business and all sorts, then it’s hurting your golf. It really does.”

:: The Masters will be available on Sky Sports Golf and via a NOW subscription from 11th – 14th April, and you can follow all the latest news on Sky Sports social and digital channels throughout the week.

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    Xander Schauffele believes Rory McIlroy is under tougher scrutiny when he loses and empathises with his need to take time off from the sport.

    McIlroy came within touching distance of winning the US Open on Sunday but disappointingly fell short as Bryson DeChambeau claimed the title by a single shot in North Carolina.

    The Northern Irishman bogeyed three of the last four holes in the last round at Pinehurst, including a woeful miss from a short putting distance on the 18th allowing DeChambeau to take the win.

    McIlroy, a four-time major winner, has not won one of golf's top events since 2014 at the PGA Championship and announced on Sunday in a post on social media that he would be taking a few weeks away from the game following the event.

    Schauffele, who was grouped with McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler for the US Open, understands why the 35-year-old has chosen to take a break.

    "As a competitor, all of us have had our highs and lows to a certain degree. It's a tough spot.

    "I'm sure him and his team are discussing what happened, and sometimes you just need to step away from it all and really try and be as objective as possible, because you're very much in the moment there and it obviously didn't go his way.

    "He needs some time away to figure out what's going on."

    The American won his first major in May, beating DeChambeau to the PGA Championship title at Valhalla, finally ending his reputation for struggling to close on final-round leads.

    "It's different for everyone. It's hard for me to compare my losses to his losses," Schauffele added. "I would say his, he's under a bit more of a microscope.

    "When things are going really well, people are all over him, and unfortunately, when things don't go your way, people are all over him.

    "So, there's a microscope on him on why he didn't win and things of that nature, and he's going to have to answer those questions at some point, and he will, because he always does.

    "I wear them pretty hard, but sometimes it's nice to just get back on the horse and compete."

    McIlroy will return in time for The Open Championship in July, where he will look to end his decade-long major drought.

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  • McIlroy set for break after toughest day of career in US Open collapse McIlroy set for break after toughest day of career in US Open collapse

    Rory McIlroy intends to take a break from golf after his US Open collapse as the Northern Irishman bemoaned the toughest day of his career following further major disappointment at Pinehurst.

    The four-time major champion has not triumphed in one of golf's top events since 2014 at the PGA Championship.

    McIlroy came within touching distance of ending that decade-long wait on Sunday but fell short in disappointing circumstances as Bryson DeChambeau claimed the US Open title by a shot in North Carolina.

    The 35-year-old McIlroy managed to bogey three of his final four holes in the last round at Pinehurst's No.2 course, including a woeful miss from a short putting distance on the 18th.

    DeChambeau was left to save par with an impressive up-and-down from the near-side bunker, leaving McIlroy to rue another missed opportunity on the major stage.

    "Yesterday was a tough day, probably the toughest I've had in my nearly 17 years as a professional golfer," McIlroy wrote on social media.

    "Firstly, I'd like to congratulate Bryson. He is a worthy champion and exactly what professional golf needs right now. I think we can all agree on that.

    "As I reflect on my week, I'll rue a few things over the course of the tournament, mostly the two missed putts on 16 and 18 on the final day.

    "But, as I always try to do, I'll look at the positives of the week that far outweigh the negatives. As I said at the start of the tournament, I feel closer to winning my next major championship than I ever have.

    "The one word that I would describe my career as is resilient. I've shown my resilience over and over again in the last 17 years and I will again."

    McIlroy was expected to play in this week's Travelers Championship in Connecticut.

    However, the world number two confirmed he will not feature as McIlroy prepares for a break after suffering a brutal blow to his major hopes.

    "I'm going to take a few weeks away from the game to process everything and build myself back up for my defence of the Genesis Scottish Open and The Open at Royal Troon," he concluded.

    The Scottish Open does not start until July 11, leaving McIlroy with almost a month to recover from this setback.

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