British Masters can be my launch pad: McIlroy

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 15th tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, on April 4, 2017.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 15th tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, on April 4, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • On the eve of the British Masters, the golf tournament that launched Rory McIlroy as a professional player 10 years ago, the former world No. 1 said that he now intends to reach a level "that turns a great career into one of the greatest careers".

The four-time Major champion may be a green jacket short of a career Grand Slam, but the past nine months has been a frustrating period for him. He has not won a tournament this year, has dropped to world No. 6, and failed to win a place in the PGA Tour's prestigious season-ending Tour Championship last week.

He did not count on missing out on that title defence and had to seek an invitation into the British Masters, having missed the three-week cut-off point for entering the £3 million (S$5.4 million) tournament.

Yet the Northern Irishman is determined to deal with persistent rib and back issues that have dogged him all year and add to his glowing resume.

"If someone had told me (10 years ago) that you're going to do X, Y and Z and I've done whatever, I would have been really happy," McIlroy said ahead of the British Masters, where he shot a three-under 67 in the first round yesterday.

"I would have been ecstatic, over the moon. But because of the experiences I've had in those 10 years and the golfer that I've become, these next three months could give me the foundation to have the next 10 years be even better than the 10 years I've just had. That turns a great career into one of the greatest careers."

This year, Jordan Spieth has won the Open at the age of 23, Justin Thomas has taken the PGA Championship at 24 and Xander Schauffele has clinched the Tour Championship at 23 - and the 28-year-old McIlroy knows he has to tidy up his act.

"It's not as if I'm an old man at 28," he said. "But I want to do everything I can to leave no stone unturned."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'British Masters can be my launch pad: McIlroy'. Print Edition | Subscribe