McIlroy embracing the quiet life ahead of Masters


Rory McIlroy hopes a dimming of the limelight trained on his build-up to the Masters can enable him to produce a scene-stealing performance at Augusta this week.

Jordan Spieth's 2016 collapse and world number one Dustin Johnson's stunning form are just two of the "storylines" McIlroy feels have removed some of the attention from him ahead of the opening major of the year.

And the four-time major winner believes the opportunity to prepare under the partially reduced glare of the media could prove beneficial.

"Yeah, I think it's been a relatively quiet build-up to the Masters for me, which has been quite nice," he said. "It's made a bit of a change from the last couple of years - especially 2015, coming off the back of two major wins in a row and going for the career Grand Slam.  

"And even last year; last year I felt like the spotlight was shared a little bit among a few guys. Obviously this year, with Dustin winning three times, he's the form player right now and there's a lot of storylines.

"I feel like it's been relatively quiet, which is quite nice. I don't feel like I can fly under the radar anymore, but at the same time, it's sort of felt that way to me and it's been nice to be able to prepare and just go about my business and try to get ready for this tournament."

McIlroy has been grouped with Hideto Tanihara and Jon Rahm for the opening two rounds, and the Northern Irishman is particularly taken with the latter's abilities.

"I'm really impressed with his game," he commented. "Obviously he had a great win earlier this year at Torrey Pines, and then gave it a great run in Austin [at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play].  

"He's a great young player. He'll be a huge asset to our European Ryder Cup Team in years to come. I'm looking forward to it."

McIlroy also revealed he had a brief conversation with six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus earlier this week, but quipped: "I think I helped him more than he helped me!

"I adjusted his driver for him because he's trying to hit it longer than Gary [Player] Thursday morning.  

"I told him, if he hits it longer than Gary, I want a mention because I adjusted the weight in his driver. He kept hitting it left. I said, 'If you adjust this, it might help'.

"Obviously he's very old school and whatever. I adjusted it for him and he started hitting these little fades. I was like, 'perfect, there you go'.

"I was practicing and he came and was trying a few drivers. It's amazing how competitive he still is. It's unbelievable. So yeah, that was really it. It was more of a passing comment."