McIlroy’s chance at greatness

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the Masters on Sunday and complete a career grand slam of all four majors in doing so.

McIlroy may have put his infamous final-day Augusta meltdown from 2011 behind him but will still have to overcome stiff

competition from defending two-time champion Bubba Watson and a host of others to triumph.

Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed will all give home fansreason for cheer while Jason Day and 2013 champion

Adam Scott lead the Australian charge.

Swede Henrik Stenson could be the pick from continental Europe.

Former world number one and four-times Masters champion Tiger Woodshas also confirmed his participation after taking a

break from competitive golf since early February to piece together his shaky game.

“I’m playing in the Masters. It’s obviously very important to me, andI want to be there,” Woods said. “I’ve worked a lot on my game and I’m looking forward to competing. I’m excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone’s support.”

But even in Woods’ presence from Thursday onwards, all eyes will at first be on McIlroy as he aims to become just the sixth player to win a modern slam of all four majors aged only 25.

“If I was to look back as a 60-year-old at my career and had not won a green jacket I would be very disappointed,” McIlroy told the BBC in an interview.

“It is the only one left and it is a course I feel I can do well at.I feel I could win multiple times, but getting that first one is the most important thing.

“Winning all four majors means you are a complete player. I can achieve something special.”

McIlroy could have already joined the elite group of Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus in winning all four titles were it not for a disastrous Augusta Sunday in 2011 when he blew a four-shot lead by shooting 80.

That delayed his maiden major by a matter of months as he recovered to win the US Open that year and he has since added two

PGA Championships (2012, 2014) and the 2014 Open.

“I learned so much about myself and what I needed to do the next time I got into that position,” McIlroy said.

“It was a huge learning curve for me and I needed it, and thankfully I have been able to move on to bigger and better things.”

With Woods unlikely to challenge competitively, the US interest at the top of the leaderboard could come from reigning champion Watson who expects to perform better than when he defended his title in 2013.

“In 2013 I was a newcomer,” Watson said. “I was still trying to find my feet. I was still trying to figure out, somehow, I’m Masters

champion.

“Media attention is different because you’re defending champ. It’s just a lot of things went on and I’m not making that as an excuse in my bad play, but I still made the cut.”

Spieth, the 21-year-old world number six who burst onto the Masters scene with a second-placed debut in 2014 is considered by many a champion in waiting while Fowler finished in the top five of every major last year.

And the feisty Reed is looking to build on a tenacious Ryder Cup performance from last September, when he took three points out of four, to make his first big impact on a major.

World number two Stenson could make history by becoming the first Swedish man to win a major but must put frustration from the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational behind him – he seemed to lose concentration after being put on the clock for slow play in theclosing holes and let a lead slip.

Winner in 2013, Scott will hope to challenge after a disappointing time in the 2014 majors while compatriot Day is looking for his first major victory.

At the other end of the scoreboard, the seven amateur competitors – Corey Conners, Matias Dominguez, Scott Harvey, Byron Meth, Antonio Murdaca, Bradley Neil and Gunn Yang – are more likely to be targeting the weekend cut than worrying about their measurements for a green jacket. – ANA-DPA

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