Livescore Friday, April 12
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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

For Rory McIlroy, he’s about to embark on his 16th attempt to win a Green Jacket at the Masters and his 10th try to complete the career Grand Slam.

But doing the same thing over and over is the definition of insanity, so McIlroy intends to shake things up again this year. Golfweek has learned McIlroy, who reportedly made a scouting trip Monday to play Augusta National, won’t return to the course until late Tuesday of tournament week and plans to skip the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday.

Last week, McIlroy participated in a small gathering with members of the Apogee Club, a private club with courses being built in Hobe Sound, Florida, and played with his TGL team member Keegan Bradley. During the round, which was taped for possible inclusion in season 3 of “Full Swing,” the Netflix documentary, and by Golf Channel for a future show on the hi-tech indoor TGL debuting in 2025, Bradley asked McIlroy when he was going to get to Augusta National ahead of the Masters. McIlroy said not until late Tuesday and explained to Bradley the lead-up to the start of the Masters drags too long so he intends to arrive later than he ever has before. (It’s not as if he doesn’t know how the course plays at this point.) In previous years, McIlroy has talked about killing time by doing puzzles at his rental house, and he’s also taught himself to juggle. He’s still trying to put the pieces together for what constitutes a winning approach to the Masters and ending his major-less skid, which dates to the 2014 PGA Championship.

Padraig Harrington once noted with all of McIlroy’s vast talent, all he really had to do was be patient.

“All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks and his game is plenty good enough,” he said. “Wouldn’t you love to just be patient and wait for those weeks to turn up?”

Well, McIlroy has good reason to have become impatient. Those weeks of brilliance haven’t been turning up of late. While McIlroy did successfully defend his title in the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic in January, he has been mired in an early-season swoon (for him). McIlroy has failed to record a top-10 finish this season on the PGA Tour. If he fails to do so this week in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open, it will mark the first time he’s headed into the Masters without one since 2010.

ESPN’s Andy North walked with McIlroy the last three rounds at the Players last month and rated his iron play this season as below average.

“His iron play this year has not been anywhere near to his standard. He had a great day with his irons on Thursday that week, and he thought he’d gotten over the hump,” North said. “That’s concerning to me, and I think that’s one of the reasons he’s playing this week. He wants to see if what he’s been working on the past couple weeks is what he wants to do.

“But to win at Augusta, you go back and look at the winners, everybody talks about putting and driving length and all that kind of stuff. Who hits the most greens has a great chance to win,” he added noting that Tiger Woods topped the field in greens in regulation in 2019 as did Scottie Scheffler in 2022.

McIlroy has top 10s in seven of the past 10 years at Augusta National but despite finishing a distant second in 2022, he really hasn’t been in the trophy hunt since playing alongside eventual champion Patrick Reed in 2018. Last year, he said he felt as confident as ever and flamed out early on Friday with a missed cut.

Fellow ESPN commentator Curtis Strange said he had talked to McIlroy’s mental coach Bob Rotella and the other reason McIlroy is playing the week before the Masters this year is simple: to keep his mind off next week.

“I like that he’s playing this week,” said Strange. “Bob said the main thing for Rory next week is to stay calm and cool. He had this phrase, ‘Mind has to be stronger than the swing,’ and I think in Rory’s case that’s exactly right because he does have some baggage coming into here because he knows he could have won here a couple of times but he knows he has the game as well.”

Added ESPN’s lead anchor Scott Van Pelt, “It’s a challenge to figure out how do you thread the needle? And maybe there’s no recipe because it’s hard to win this one. If he does, everyone’s going to say, well, of course. But if he doesn’t, then you join the list of guys going how the hell did I not win that tournament?”

Might as well shake things up in the lead up to the Masters. He’ll arrive later and take a more business-like approach with one goal in mind: to ensure the mind is stronger than the swing.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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