Augusta: Rory McIlroy cannot begin to contemplate a career where he will be ineligible to have breakfast in the Masters Champions Locker Room at Augusta National.
McIlroy singled out the likes of Greg Norman and Ernie Els, who have both been denied such an opportunity and then witnessed younger players who grew up idolizing them succeed at Augusta.
There is defending champion Adam Scott, who as a youngster had pictures of Norman about his bedroom.
Then there’s Els, and the best golfer to come out of South Africa since Gary Player, graciously, but no doubt painstakingly having to congratulate Masters winning countrymen Trevor Immelman and Charl Schwartzel.
It’s why McIlroy desperately seeks to become the first Irish golfer to be fitted out with a green jacket.
“It has to be tough because you can look at someone like Greg Norman seeing Adam win last year,” said McIlroy.
“Then there’s Ernie (Els) and he sees Trevor (Immelman) winning, he sees Charl (Schwartzel) win, and he sees all these young South Africans playing so well, like Louis (Oosthuizen) going so close in a play-off against Bubba (Watson),” said McIlroy.
“Ernie should have won in 2004 when (Phil) Mickelson birdied two of the last three.
“It’s why I’m determined at 24 that I don’t want to get to that point when I’m 44.
“So that’s why it would be great to win one Masters sooner rather than later.
“It’s why I just cannot contemplate a career without a green jacket as the Masters just stands out from the other majors because we go back to the same venue every year.
“And I’d be disappointed if I ended my career and wasn’t able to go up and have breakfast in the Champions Locker Room.”
While rain washed out much of the first official practice round on Monday McIlroy will now be smiling when he steps onto the 10th tee.
Not only did the recent ice storm bring down the famed Eisenhower Tree, but it also felled the large overhanging branch down the left side of the 10th fairway that McIlroy collected during his gut-wrenching 2011 Masters meltdown.
McIlroy was made aware the storm had brought down the huge branch from ‘Rory’s Tree’ when playing a practice round in the lead-up to this year’s Masters.
“Whenever the member’s play Augusta there is a guy has a beverage cart parked on the 10th tee and he mentioned it to me when I was up there Tuesday before heading to Houston,” said McIlroy.
He just said to me: ‘Oh that branch, it’s not there anymore’.
“And then when I looked it was gone, broken off in the ice storm and Augusta had to take it away.”
So while the ice storm finally granted the late US President Dwight Eisenhower his lifelong request, nature has delivered McIlroy some justice for him to savour.
And if McIlroy believes in God’s hand can help him win at Augusta then there’s the bizarre statistic that on the four occasions Tiger Woods has not contested a Major an Irish golfer has succeeded — Padraig Harrington 2008 British Open and 2008 PGA, McIlroy 2011 US Open and Darren Clarke 2011 British Open.
“That’s good omen,” he said smiling. “I’m not that superstitious but maybe it gives you an extra bit of ‘Oh, I might have a bit of an extra chance this week.’
McIlroy arrived into Augusta late on Sunday following a confidence-lifting final round 65 to share seventh place in the Shell Houston Open.
It was his best-ever round in America’s fourth largest city in four appearances in Houston.