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Paul McGinley: Rory McIlroy only needs a small change to join the golfing greats

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ix times Rory McIlroy has teed off at the Masters aiming to joining golf’s elite in completing the career Grand Slam.

And ahead of the seventh time of asking the wait goes on to join such golfing luminaries as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarrazan.

His best shot was undeniably in 2011 when he took a four-shot lead into the final round at Augusta only to implode for an 80.

In six of the last seven editions of the Masters, he has finished in the top 10, and last year his final three rounds were better than anyone else in the field. But by then his chances of a first Green Jacket had already been undone by an opening-round 75.

That potential piece of history has hung around his neck like a millstone, according to his countryman and former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

“That first round was a reaction to the pressure he’s under,” said McGinley. “Only five players in the history of the game have completed the career Grand Slam. If Rory wins the Masters, he joins them. All the others who managed it did it in three attempts, this is Rory’s seventh. It gets tougher, the expectation weighs heavier. Last year, he shot one bad score, and then the shackles were off.”

Five months on from last year’s delayed Masters, he has another shot but potentially aiding his cause is the fact he is not being talked about among the very top favourites having openly struggled with his game.

That said, a solid opening round – teeing off shortly before 3.30pm today – would immediately shift the conversation back to history making.

And should he break the deadlock and, against the odds, be the first man into the Butler Cabin come Sunday, McGinley believes it could free him up to get on a roll in the Majors.

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