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Does McIlroy’s poor form reduce Grand Slam pressure?

Rory McIlroy has made a slow start to the season on the PGA Tour, although could his disappointing streak of results put less pressure on his latest bid to complete golf’s career Grand Slam?

McIlroy made a fast start to 2024 on the DP World Tour, finishing runner-up at the Dubai Invitational before successfully defending his title at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, but has failed to replicate those results since switching focus to the PGA Tour.

The world No 2 struggled to a tied-66th finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and has been unable to register a top-20 in his next four PGA Tour starts, allowing Scottie Scheffler to pull further clear at the top of the world rankings after big wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players.

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Rory McIlroy said he had a lot of work to do after another ‘volatile’ week at The Players, but insisted he’ll be ready to go for The Masters

McIlroy has had a busier early-season schedule than previous years as he looks to end his major drought, with the Northern Irishman electing to tee it up at the Valero Texas Open this week ahead of aiming to complete the career Grand Slam at The Masters.

The 34-year-old is among the pre-tournament favourites to claim a long-awaited fifth major title next week, despite missing two of his last three cuts at Augusta National, with the Sky Sports Golf podcast panel debating on how much his poor form could impact him.

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Who will win The Masters? Watch all the action from Augusta National this month live on Sky Sports Golf

“His form has been very poor by his standards, having started off the year very well,” former DP World Tour player Gary Murphy told the Sky Sports Golf podcast. “Then he hasn’t been inside the top-15 in his last five starts, so he has little to show.

“I actually don’t mind that and I would hate if McIlroy was doing a Scottie Scheffler at the moment, as I think the expectations would be absolutely ferocious. I think playing in the Valero Texas Open this week is good and I would like to see him get to Augusta National as late as possible.

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“I’m hoping he’ll find that this week and have a decent week. If he wins it’s a good thing, as he’s won the week before winning a major, so that’s not going to get him out of his element.

“He is looking for something, but we’ve all gone into tournaments trying to find something. The fact that he’s out of form doesn’t matter massively, as he’s a very light switch kind of player and he could find something in his swing this week, go with it, and hang onto that for a month or six weeks.”

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Should McIlroy make a late arrival?

McIlroy has had 20 top-tens in majors since his 2014 PGA Championship victory – including seven in his last eight major starts, more than any other player during the same period, with the former world No 1’s best finish at The Masters coming via a runner-up finish in 2022.

The four-time major champion will be one of the main talking points in the press at the opening major of the year, with former DP World Tour player Richard McEvoy backing him to stay away from the media to enhance his chances of an elusive Masters victory.

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Jamie Spence tells the Sky Sports Golf Podcast that he thinks Rory McIlroy needs a change to improve his form and become more consistent

“I think it’s quite a good thing that there could be lower expectations on him,” McEvoy added. “I think that’s where Scheffler’s so good, as he’s a very quiet unassuming guy and doesn’t necessarily get all the plaudits and expectations from the press.

“The press will still be on Rory for sure because he’s trying to win that career Grand Slam. He should turn up Tuesday afternoon, play a few holes on Wednesday, do his own thing and try and stay away from the press as much as possible.

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Nick Dougherty believes Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy will all be competing to wear the green jacket in Augusta and hopes McIlroy can complete a career Grand Slam to write his name in history

“It would help him, no doubt, if he turned up late and tried not to speak to the press too much. They’re just going to ask question after question about him winning there, which is just going to add in more pressure. Hopefully he can be a little more selfish and just turn up and do his own thing.”

What else is on the podcast?

Sarah Stirk steps in for regular podcast host Josh Antmann to talk through another eventful week in golf, where Nelly Korda continued her dominance on the LPGA Tour and Keita Nakajima enjoyed an impressive victory at the Hero Indian Open.

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Highlights from the final round of the Ford Championship, where Nelly Korda claimed a third consecutive LPGA Tour title

The panel look at how many golfers see the DP World Tour as a stepping stone to the PGA Tour and reflect on the legacy of chief executive Keith Pelley, who leaves his role this week and will be replaced by Guy Kinnings. There’s also an early look at predictions for The Masters and a preview to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Download and listen to the latest Sky Sports Golf podcast and don’t forget to subscribe via Spotify, Spreaker or Apple Podcasts! If you’d like to contact the podcast, then you can email at golf@skysports.com.

When is The Masters on Sky Sports?

Wall-to-wall coverage from the tournament begins at 2pm over the first two rounds on Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, with Featured Group action and regular updates from around the course available to enjoy on Sky Sports Golf until the global broadcast window begins at 8pm.

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You can watch all the tremendous action and intense drama from Augusta National, live from April 11-14 on Sky Sports Golf

There will be lots of extra action throughout all four days via the red button on Sky Sports Golf, along with Sky Q and Sky Glass, providing plenty of bonus feeds and allowing you to follow players’ progress through various parts of Augusta’s famous layout.

Sky Sports Golf will show extended build-up content over the weekend and occasional live updates from the course before the global broadcast window starts at 8pm for the third round and 7pm for the final day, with early action available throughout via the red button.

Watch the Valero Texas Open and The Masters live on Sky Sports. Live coverage from Texas begins on Thursday at 1.15pm, while the opening round of The Masters is live on April 11 at 2pm. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, majors and more with NOW.

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