Edge of glory

'The thing about Rory is he's on form... He's on the edge of history'

Paul McGinley believes that knowing when to be patient and knowing when to attack will be key to winning the Masters.

THE 2018 MASTERS has the potential to be the most exciting instalment of the tournament to date, according to Sky Sports analyst Paul McGinley.

GAA Games Development Conference in partnership with Sky Sports David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Augusta is a course that remains the same every year and as McGinley sees it, the television viewers at home are just as attuned to the challenges on the greens, pars and bunkers, as the golfers who will be standing over the tee.

He can see a group of between 40 to 50 golfers being in contention to win the tournament.

The former Ryder Cup captain believes that there are several ways to win a major championship, but argues that the golfers at Augusta will require both a patient and attack-minded approach to maximise their chances of success.

Striking the balance between those two strategies will be crucial for the eventual winner’s performance, and McGinley neatly summarises it in the lyrics from the famous Kenny Rogers song ‘The Gambler.’

“It’s a golf course where you’ve got to know when to back off and there’s also times when you’ve got to take on the golf course. It’s getting that balance right. That’s what great champions have done over the years, that’s what the statistics illustrate.

It’s the ability of as that song says ‘know when to hold em, know when to fold em.’

Naturally, Rory McIlroy is part of that leading group that will be vying for the green jacket at the end of it all, and he comes into the Masters on the back of a well-timed victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this month.

The four-time major champion produced a stunning final round of eight-under par 64 at the Bay Hill tournament, which included five birdies in his last six holes to claim his first PGA win in 18 months.

Rory McIlroy on the 18th Rory McIlroy. Presseye / Matt Mackey/INPHO Presseye / Matt Mackey/INPHO / Matt Mackey/INPHO

“He gave everybody a reminder of what he’s capable of doing,” says McGinley.

“The thing about Rory is he comes in and out, he’s not on any line of consistency. It’s been like that his whole career. That’s why it’s very hard to gauge how he’s going to do at Augusta and his biggest challenge at Augusta is history on his shoulder.

“There’s four or five guys who’ve ever won the Grand Slam. There’s a reason why only four our five have won it, it’s a very difficult thing to accomplish. He’s on the edge of history.

The thing about Rory is he’s on form and he’s got to give himself chances because a few years ago he really hasn’t contended to win. You haven’t really seen him. He’s had a few top 10s alright but he’s never really threatened to win.

“Getting in contention is big for him. Fireworks can happen the way they did in Bay Hill.”

Tiger Woods is also expected to be a major contender at the Masters next week, and has climbed 551 spots in the world rankings so far this year as part of his ongoing comeback after undergoing four back surgeries in recent years.

Earlier this month, he finished just one shot behind winner Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship and is still seeking to to end a win drought that stretches back to 2013.

McGinley has spoken before about golfers facing history and ‘the ghosts of times past’ when they compete at the Masters, a pressure which he feels Woods is the best equipped to deal with.

And though there will be an intense focus on his form at Augusta, McGinley is still unsure if the 14-time major winner is ready to pounce for glory at this tournament.

“Everybody loves a comeback. Hollywood loves a comeback, we all love the underdog, we all love the guy who’s fighting against the odds.

It would be monumental for him to come back and win. I personally think he’s heading in the right direction but I don’t know if he’s ready to take that big leap and win a major championship.

“I think he needs a few more tournaments under his belt.”

McGinley will watch all the action unfold with his analyst hat on next week, and since making the transition into punditry, he has started to watch the sport in a different way. Not being directly involved in the hunt for victories has allowed him take in the tournaments with a clearer mind.

Whether his prediction will come true about this being the most exciting masters ever will reveal itself in good time.

Sky Sports Golf is the only place to see live coverage of all four days’ play from Augusta.

You can also catch all the action via NOW TV with a Sky Sports Pass.

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