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'No guarantees McIlroy will complete a career Grand Slam' — McGinley

But the former Ryder Cup captain believes his fellow Irishman is hitting form at the right time.

McGinley and McIlroy in 2014
McGinley and McIlroy in 2014
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

FORMER RYDER CUP captain Paul McGinley insists that it is not a ‘forgone conclusion’ that Rory McIlroy will ever complete a career Grand Slam with Masters victory ahead of next week’s major at Augusta.

The 80th edition of The Masters gets underway on Thursday in Georgia and McIlroy was against in the spotlight this week after confirming that he will not play in the traditional pre-tournament Par 3 event.

The Green Jacket has been the one major prize to have eluded the 26-year-old Holywood native, who, along with US rival and defending champion Jordan Spieth, is joint-second favourite with the bookies to win out behind Aussie world No 1 Jason Day.

McIlroy will be fancied by many to go on to complete the major set next week, having impressed at the WGC Cadillac Championship last month despite letting victory slip from his grasp on the final day of that event after leading for 54 holes.

McGinely, who will be working as a pundit for Sky Sports on their coverage of The Masters, has warned that his fellow Irishman is still battling with the weight of expectation on his shoulders, however.

The former Ryder Cup captain believes that McIlroy is ‘in a good place’ at the moment and cited his WGC form at Doral as evidence that the 26-year-old is hitting form, but McGinley also maintained that victory at Augusta is not a given for the prodigious Holywood star.

“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s going to win The Masters, I think he’s up against incredibly strong opposition this year and I think there are a lot of guys showing a lot of form,” warned McGinley.

Rory McIlroy Hitting form: McIlroy Source: Getty Images/INPHO

“If he’s going to win this Masters, which of course he’s well capable of and he’s started to trend towards in terms of his form, he knows he’s got to be on it for four days and play the golf he’s well capable of, and put to the standard we saw in Doral.

“There’s no such thing as a foregone conclusion in golf and we all know how difficult the game is, and a lot of things that we expected to happen in golf didn’t happen,” added the former Ryder Cup captain.

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Memories of another infamous collapse at the 2011 Masters still linger ahead of next week’s tournament when McIlroy matched Ken Venturi’s round of 80 to record the worst final-round score of a third-round leader since the latter’s collapse in 1956.

McGinley counters that McIlroy’s three subsequent major wins prove that he is a completely different player from that time, however, as well as a more mature one.

“Well I think he’s very much more mature as a golfer than he was back then, he’s a lot more experienced obviously with those Major wins and big titles around the world, he established himself as the No 1 player in Europe and America. I know he’s not number one in the world at the moment but he’s not far off it,” said McGinley. “So there’s a lot of water gone under the bridge since then and he’s in a much better place mentally and physically than he would have been back there.

_V3A3241 McGinley prepares to tee off in the Sky Sports studios Source: Source: Sky Sports

“Now, the way he putted in the Doral showed us all he’s starting to get real confidence back on the greens, the way he putted particularly in the second and third round when he out-putted everyone in the tournament,” added the Dubliner, who explained that McIlroy’s increasing maturity means that he has the capability to tackle the thrilling and treacherous challenges of Augusta.

“It’s that maturity that he has,” insisted McGinley. “I think he’s got a great guy on his shoulder in terms of JP [Fitzgerald, caddie]. “He’s shot some very low rounds there in the past and has a pretty decent record around there. He got off to a slow start last year and still came very strong at the weekend and top-tenned it.

“He is a guy that is comfortable around there and it is obviously suited to his game. And there is no reason why Rory can’t win at Augusta. It is a golf course that lines up with the kinds of courses he has won on in the past,” added McGinley.

*Sky Sports is showing all four Majors – including the Open for the first time – and the Ryder Cup during 2016, starting at the Masters 7-10 April.

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Ciarán Gallagher

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