Rory McIlroy should learn from Jordan Spieth and rediscover his best golf by trusting his own instincts – despite his eve-of-Masters coach switch. Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is concerned that if McIlroy chases the rainbow after making the first coach switch of his career to bring on board Pete Cowen he could end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
He wants McIlroy to follow the lead of Spieth, who returned to the winners’ circle last weekend after a four-year absence, and stick with what made him a major winner in the first place.
McIlroy, now No 12 in the world, has not won a major since 2014 with his wait to complete a Grand Slam still ongoing.
“I think there’s a lot of lessons from Jordan Spieth and what he has done in the last two years coming into this Masters as a lot of people’s favourite on a great run of form. There’s a lot to be learned from the fact that he didn’t change things,” said McGinley.
“There was a huge cry in the media to change the caddie, his manager and his coach and Jordan resisted everything.
“He’s thought about it and he’s got things clear in his head again. The answer is in simplicity and clarity, it’s not in complexity.
“There’s two types of player in the game – the technicians like Justin Rose and Bryson DeChambeau who see the game in a very technical way – and the real creative artists like Fred Couples, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy.
“Pete has been around the block a long, long time and he’s coached different styles of players and I’m sure that’s going to be the way he’s going to be coaching Rory.
“I don’t think this is major swing surgery. I’m hoping it’s not.”
The upheaval to McIlroy’s team and his patchy build-up to the Masters mean he is less fancied than usual at the tournament but McGinley, who is at Augusta with Sky Sports this week, is not dismissing his chances entirely.
“We’ve seen him in better form coming into the Masters than we are seeing at the moment but if he gets his focus right and he gets a little bit of confidence and one simple swing thought, that’s when he will ignite – and he can ignite very quickly,” he said.
“We all know with Rory it is inspiration and confidence more than anything else.
“When he starts bouncing down the fairways and when he gets that look back in his eyes and that ambition – I call it pointy elbows, ‘get out of my way here I come’ – when Rory gets that look about him that’s when he’s dangerous. We haven’t seen that look for a while.”
Augusta old hand Paul Casey is meanwhile rubbing his hands at the prospect at golf’s most beastly beauty reverting to type.
There is no such thing as a bad Masters but the dank, deserted November instalment which served up a bomb-and-splodge win for Dustin Johnson felt like a grey imitation.
Five months on and with golf’s most picturesque playground brought to life by the Georgia sunshine and the return of spectators, the real Masters is back complete with Tiggerish fairways and Cresta Run greens.
Casey cannot wait. This is his 15th Masters and Augusta feels to him like it is about to throw up an edition which lives long in the memory. It will be, he warned, be no place for the uninitiated.
“I would back a guy who’s been here several times and has seen an Augusta National firm and fast like the one we’re going to get this week,” said Casey.
“I’ve seen some young guys this week have a slight deer in the headlights look because they’ve walked out on a couple of those greens and they’ve seen the colour of them and they’ve felt the firmness and you can see they’re kind of going: ‘whoa, like this is a whole different animal.’
“Balls will gather in places that, if a guy hasn’t been here in half a dozen years, he won’t have experienced.
“November was very cool in its own right but this is back to what I remember seeing as a kid. As players we haven’t seen a setup like this in a long, long time. Usually mother nature has her hand in that but this is fabulous.
“I hope the rain stays away all week. It’s absolutely glorious. This is what the Masters should be.”
It is 25 years since Nick Faldo won the third of his Green Jackets when Greg Norman imploded and he shot 67 in the final round in similarly glassy conditions.
Faldo remains one of only two Englishmen to have won the Masters. Casey is Padraig Harrington’s pick to join him and although he would be a surprise winner his record around Augusta means the World No 18 would be much less of a bolter than Danny Willett in 2016.
“There’s no question that the golf course suits my game which is because fundamentally I’m a very good ball striker,” said Casey.
“But then there’s other subtleties like the off-camber lies. I’ve always felt you need the ability to deliver the club repeatedly on those awkward slopes and that’s one of the things I do pretty well. I’m not a great putter but I’m a good touch putter which very much assists round here too.
“There’s a whole bunch of stuff I do really well that just plays into the hands of this golf course.
“There will be mistakes that are made by everybody. But if you eliminate most of those then hopefully you can stick around near the top of the leaderboard. I relish the challenge and I’m excited.”
Casey is one of nine Englishmen in the field including Matt Wallace, who finished third at last week’s Texas Open, and Lee Westwood, twice a runner-up on the PGA Tour this year.
“We are all here as individuals but I think en masse we are probably the strongest contingent of Englishmen for quite some time,” said Westwood.
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