|Venue: Augusta National, Georgia Date: 6-9 April|
|Coverage: Live text commentary of all four rounds on BBC Sport website. Live radio commentary on Thursday and Friday from 22:00 BST, on Saturday from 21:00 and Sunday from 20:00.|
Rory McIlroy hopes adopting the “disciplined” Masters strategy used by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus will help him complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National this week.
The Northern Irishman is making his ninth attempt to become the sixth player to win all four majors.
He says picking the brain of five-time winner Woods has impressed upon him the importance of the correct game plan.
“The one thing Tiger did really well at Augusta is discipline,” said McIlroy.
Speaking to BBC Sport Northern Ireland, the 33-year-old added: “The course can really goad you into taking shots that you don’t need to take on and if you look at the two most successful players at Augusta, it’s Tiger and Jack [who won a record six titles]. They are the two most disciplined players in the history of our game.
“Not taking on too much risk. Not getting ahead of yourself. That’s the formula to do well at the Masters.”
Two months after squandered a four-shot lead going into the final round of the Masters by firing a closing eight-over-par 80, McIlroy won his first major at the 2011 US Open and has since won two US PGA titles and the 2014 Open title at Hoylake.
McIlroy’s closing eight-under 64 saw him record his best finish of runner-up last year, but that came after starting the final round 10 shots behind Scottie Scheffler, who would go on to win by three.
Should McIlroy triumph this week he will join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods in the elite Grand Slam club.
McIlroy must focus on ‘six’ key Augusta shots
Speaking on Sir Nick Faldo’s Round Table Chats podcast last month, Nicklaus said that he believes McIlroy needs to apply more focus to certain shots at Augusta.
“There are about six shots at Augusta that you better pay attention to – your tee shot at two, your second shot on 11, tee shot at 12, your tee shot at 13, and the second shot at 13, and the [second] shot at 15,” said Nicklaus, who famously won the last of his record six Green Jackets at the age of 46 in 1986.
“Rory sometimes, I think he just plays golf. And sometimes, you really can’t just play golf,” said the record 18-time major champion.
For his part, an optimistic McIlroy says his runner-up finish 12 months ago “felt more like a win” and is hoping he can “continue to feel those good vibes” going into this year’s event.
“I felt like I broke a barrier for myself whether that was a perceived barrier or a mental one but I left Augusta really happy with myself and my performance for the first time in a long time,” he added.
That came following a missed cut in 2021 which was only the second time he failed to make the final two rounds at the event in 14 attempts, in a Masters career which includes seven top-10 finishes.
‘I talk to Tiger every day’
McIlroy’s business ties with Woods, announced last August, which will see them and other PGA Tour stars competing on virtual courses in a stadium setting on the Monday evening of tournament weeks in 2024 has added to their already strong bond.
“I talk to him every day. That’s the thing to me that is great,” said McIlroy.
“I can remember the first time I met him and how I felt and to forge that relationship with him and for him to really take an interest in what I do and take an interest in my game, take an interest in my family.”
Both Woods and McIlroy have taken leading roles in aiming to defend the PGA Tour’s status amid the emergence of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series and the Northern Irishman praised the 15-time major winner’s continued involvement in that battle despite his limited tournament play since his serious car accident in February 2021.
“I’m unbelievably grateful for his friendship and his guidance but also his leadership through everything that’s happened in the past 18 months as well,” added McIlroy.
“If anyone didn’t need to do anything it’s Tiger Woods but he’s stood up and tried to do what’s right for the game of golf.
“Every single player on the PGA Tour needs to commend him for that.”