Mind over matter: Rory brings new approach to Masters

Rory McIlroy hits off the 2nd tee during practice for the 2019 Masters tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club. (Reuters pic)

AUGUSTA: Rory McIlroy’s desire to complete his collection of golf’s four majors with a win at this week’s Masters has led the Northern Irishman to try a fresh approach, one that focuses on meditation and juggling.

McIlroy enters the year’s first major as the hottest player on the planet and he credits his solid start to 2019 with a new attitude that is all about perspective, persistence and poise, or what he refers to as the three P’s.

The new formula for McIlroy, who will play the opening two rounds this week with American Rickie Fowler and Australia’s Cameron Smith, centres around meditation, juggling and mind training.

“Look, I’m not going to go and live with the monks for a couple months in Nepal, but just to be able to get your mind in the right place and be able to focus and to centre yourself,” McIlroy told a news conference at Augusta National on Tuesday.

“It’s 10 minutes a day. It’s not as if I’m being consumed by it. But definitely something that has helped from time to time. Especially in situations where you need your mind to be right.”

McIlroy has five consecutive top-10 finishes at the Masters yet his defining moment at Augusta National remains his final-round collapse in 2011 when he failed to close out the win despite entering the day with a four-shot lead.

But McIlroy, who has since gone on to win four times at golf’s three other majors, has visions of becoming just the sixth person to complete the career grand slam and hopes his new approach will prove fruitful.

The 29-year-old Northern Irishman has a top-six finish in each of the six stroke play events he has played this year, including a triumph at the Players Championship where he meditated for 20 minutes ahead of the final round.

Early indications, therefore, are that McIlroy may be on the right path with his meditation and juggling.

“They mightn’t be the right things for other people, but I think I’ve found a formula that works for me, and I’m – you know, I’m going to persist with it and I’m going to stick to it,” said McIlroy.

“It’s helped me play some of the best golf of my career so far this year, and you know, hopefully that will continue.”

When it comes to juggling, McIlroy described himself as a “rookie” who can only handle three balls at once.

“You know, maybe what resonates with me is isn’t going to resonate with someone else, but I found what I feel is the best path forward for me and I’ve committed to it,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy, who had another close call last year when he began the final round three shots behind eventual winner Patrick Reed, said the pressure he puts on himself at Augusta National compared to his previous appearances has changed.

“I would dearly love to win this tournament one day. If it doesn’t happen this week, that’s totally fine, I’ll come back next year and have another crack at it,” said McIlroy.

“But I’m happy with where everything is, body, mind, game.”