Can Rory McIlroy win his first Masters?
Rory McIlroy has an opportunity to take the scepter from Tiger Woods next week at Augusta. Here's why he can do it.
As part of the Eye on Golf Masters preview we will look at a few of the top golfers in the world and what their chances are of winning the 2014 Masters.
How about a fun little statistics game before we get on to today's preview -- how many times has Rory McIlroy finished in the top 10 at the Masters?
No. 7: McIlroy was second after the 2013 Masters and has been slipping in the rankings ever since. He fell to No. 8 at the end of last year but rebounded recently go get back to No. 6 before settling in at No. 7.
Odds of winning
7-1: The favorite.
Why he'll win it
Of all the top 10 players in the world you could make the argument that McIlroy has played the best and most consistent golf in 2014.
He has three top 10s on the European and PGA tours, including two top twos. Plus he has been shaping his game for this event since the end of last year.
McIlroy is one of a handful of golfers on the planet who can afford to skip tournaments or try things in various events that specifically prepare him for majors. This is the 22nd major of his career, which is in the heart of where the past 10 winners have fallen.
The throne has been vacated by Mr. Woods. McIlroy is poised as much as anyone not named Adam Scott to assume it.
Why he won't win it
You saw that stat at the top of this piece, yes? McIlroy's best finish here is a T15 in 2011, the year he melted down with an 80 on Sunday.
He has to avoid a huge round -- he has had at least one round of 77 or more in each of the past three Masters -- to be in it at the end and he hasn't proven he can do that yet.
McIlroy after blowing the Honda Classic last month with a late-Sunday meltdown:
"I didn't play well enough to deserve to win today. So I just need to pick myself up and get back at it, go down to Doral and try and put myself in position to win again and see if I can do a better job."
I think that shows that Rory can take some emotion out of his game and play with an even hand. He'll have to on Sunday at Augusta.
Stat you should know
Five golfers have won the career grand slam. McIlroy can get 75 percent of the way there with a win at the 2014 Masters.
Recently at Augusta...
Recently on the PGA Tour...
McIlroy finished tied for seventh at the Houston Open (including shooting at 65 on Sunday), runner-up at the Honda Classic and T25 at the Cadillac Championship in March.
McIlroy is my pick to be a lock for the top 10 this year -- given that his past five years have all resulted in finishes that were a multiple of five, I'll say he finishes T5.
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Koepka is looking to recover in less than three months to play at Augusta National
Thomas Pieters and his Ryder Cup partner could go at it for a title this weekend
Phil Mickelson returns and the Web.com Tour is cleaning up
Lefty returns at the CareerBuilder Challenge this week
Only in Florida, right?