Rory McIlroy hoping Butch Harmon visit pays off in bid for elusive Masters win

By Sports Desk April 10, 2024

Most people leave Las Vegas with considerably less money than when they arrived, but Rory McIlroy’s recent trip to Sin City could prove priceless.

Faced with a mediocre run of results by his standards and with the 88th Masters on the horizon, McIlroy headed west for a lesson with famous coach Butch Harmon, the man behind the first eight of Tiger Woods’s 15 major titles.

Harmon’s credentials mean McIlroy’s visit could not entirely be labelled a gamble, but it was a significant rolling of the dice ahead of his 10th attempt to complete the career grand slam by earning a fabled green jacket.

“I’ve done this a number of times in my career,” McIlroy said. “I met Butch when I was 14 years old, so we’ve always had a good relationship. If there’s one guy that I want to go and get a second opinion from, it’s him.

“It’s the same stuff that I’ve been trying to do with my coach Michael (Bannon), but he sort of just said it in a different way that maybe hit home with me a little bit more.

“It was a really worthwhile trip.”

Proof of that came with a final round of 66 and third place in the following week’s Valero Texas Open, albeit nine shots behind winner Akshay Batia, and McIlroy arrived in Augusta on Tuesday lunchtime as a firm second favourite behind world number one Scottie Scheffler.

Such a late arrival – McIlroy was the last of the 89 players to register – was another departure from the norm, as was a truncated press conference which saw the four-time major winner face just seven questions.

Woods had been far more expansive an hour or so earlier, reiterating his belief that McIlroy winning the Masters was just “a matter of time”, but also insisting that a sixth green jacket and 16th major title was not out of the question, despite his ongoing injury problems.

Odds of 150/1 on that eventuality suggest the bookmakers do not share such optimism, while prices of 4/1 on Scheffler winning a second Masters title in three years are the kind Woods regularly justified in his prime.

The 2022 champion has been in brilliant form this season, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five shots and seven days later becoming the first player to win back-to-back Players Championship titles at Sawgrass.

Only a short missed birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the Houston Open cost Scheffler the chance of a third straight win and it would be a huge surprise if he was not at least in contention on Sunday.

The same can also be said of defending champion Jon Rahm, despite his shock defection to LIV Golf making it harder to objectively assess his recent form.

Rahm has finished third, eighth, fifth, 14th and fifth again so far this season, but knows from personal experience that previous success counts for a lot at the only venue which hosts a major championship every year.

Despite starting last year’s Masters by four-putting the opening hole for a double bogey, Rahm went on to win his second major title by four shots from LIV players Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, with Patrick Reed another stroke back in fourth.

Koepka went on to win the US PGA Championship a month later and remains a different player in majors than regular events, while US Open champion Wyndham Clark and world number nine Ludvig Aberg are bidding to become the first player to win on their Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

A rookie winning would no doubt be galling to McIlroy, but he could yet hit the jackpot.

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    The world number one beat Tom Kim in a dramatic finish at TPC River Highlands, having gone into the final round a shot behind his playing partner. 

    Scheffler would make five birdies in a bogey-free round to shoot 65, taking his total to 22 under alongside the South Korean, who was the overnight leader. 

    Kim would force a play-off on the final hole after sinking a 10-foot birdie, only for play to be halted soon after when multiple protestors ran onto the 18th green. 

    However, Scheffler would remain composed and made the par-winning putt after his opponent was unable to get up and down from the sand. 

    The American's latest triumph follows wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players, The Masters, RBC Heritage, and Memorial Tournament already this season. 

    Scheffler also strengthened his position at the top of the world with another 66 points in the Official World Golf Rankings. 

    The latest points for Scheffler mean he has now beaten Tiger Woods' long-standing record of 532 in the first six months of the year, something he set in 2000, a season he would go on to win nine times. 

    Scheffler has now amassed 583 points in the first six months of 2024 and was pleased to pick up another PGA Tour title. 

    "It has been a great season," Scheffler said. "I've been fortunate to come away with some wins, and it has been a lot of fun.

    "Tom played his heart out today. He's a great player, great champion and it was fun battling with him today."

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  • A fusion of passion and purpose: Sandals Golf and Jerk Festival hailed for its impact on community development A fusion of passion and purpose: Sandals Golf and Jerk Festival hailed for its impact on community development

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    Beyond golf, the Care for Kids programme, which engages kids between the ages of seven and 18 years old, through weekly mentorship training programme, also imparts life skills that Clarke says prepares them to navigate whatever challenges lay ahead.

    For the Jerk competition, members from Sandals Dunn’s River Resort, Sandals Royal Plantation, Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and the Country Club match skills with unique chicken, shrimp and fish recipes. In an effort to continue its youth engagement commitment, all jerk teams also comprised students of the St Ann’s Chapter of the HEART/ NSTA Trust’s hospitality school.

    “I think it was a fantastic success. Another big aspect of it is the jerk competition. So this year, for the jerk competition, we had the chefs out on the course, so golfers could sample jerk when they were out there. We had some HEART/ NSTA students join them for the competition, so they were mentored from the day before with all the preparations and then during the day of the event,” Clarke shared.

    One of the many participants prepares to tee off.

    “They all really had a fantastic time. So for us, it's always about how we work with our young people, whether they're playing golf or whether they want to learn about the hospitality industry, and how we're working to build our healthcare, and making our communities stronger. So I think, overall, it was a resounding success,” she noted.

    Newnham, director of operations at the golf club, also stressed that the festival is more than just golf, as he too pointed to the lasting positive impact it has on local communities.

    “It was just a very first class event and the feedback from the golfers was fantastic. It was fitting that our overall champion was actually a team of Cavani James, who won our junior qualifier a month and a half ago, and Tajay Lobban, a former, a former member of our junior golf programme. So that is very rewarding for us as a programme to showcase the talents that we nurtured,” Newnham reasoned.

    “It's a testament to the work that not only we do, but also as a Jamaican golf and junior community as a whole. So very proud that all the hard work that went into it was well awarded and it was essentially a celebration of sport and all it does for us and the surrounding communities, as the proceeds are for a cause,” he ended.

     

     

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    “It’s an opportunity for us to reaffirm BCIC’s commitment to youth development through our title sponsorship of this prestigious event,” he said.

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    Also on hand to give a glimpse of what to expect from the course itself was Caymanas Golf Club General Manager, Peter Lindo.

    “Our picturesque little course in St. Catherine eagerly awaits the talented young golfers who will be representing their countries. Our course superintendent, Mr. Jerry Hardy, and out groundskeepers have been working meticulously preparing the course taking every measure possible to present optimal playing conditions,” he said.

    “We’ve had some unusually hot dry weather up until last week and that little spell of rain has given us an even greener landscape. One of the challenges we’ve had over the years is the deterioration of our bunkers and Jamaica Aggregates Limited were very kind in donating sand which will go a very long way in the resuscitation of the bunkers,” he added.

    Other main sponsors for the championship include Sandals Foundation, R&A, Fleetwood, ORCA Golf, Caribbean Golf Association, CMK Bakery and Digicel Business.

     

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