AUGUSTA, US: Top-ranked Rory McIlroy chases his third consecutive major victory and a career Grand Slam while Tiger Woods stalks his first major title since 2008 when the 79th Masters begins on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Perfect playing conditions at iconic Augusta National greeted golfers for the final practice session on the eve of the year’s first major championship, tension already mounting even for those who already own the green jacket symbolizing Masters supremacy.
“Feeling the pressure at Augusta and winning it, I know that I can do it, so it helps a little,” defending champion Bubba Watson said. “You’re still nervous. You’re still scared. But at least I have won a couple times.”
McIlroy could join Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Woods as the only players to have won each of the majors at least once. The 25-year-old Northern Ireland star would be the first European to do so.
McIlroy, who plays alongside Americans Phil Mickelson and Ryan Moore with a 10:41 (1441 GMT) morning start, has stressed that he expects to have many more chances at winning the Masters if this one does not result in a victory.
“He has that opportunity and he’s going to have that opportunity for decades to come,” Woods said.
It would also be McIlroy’s fifth career major win after the 2011 US Open, the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships and last year’s British Open. If he does don a green jacket Sunday, McIlroy would join Woods and Ben Hogan as the only men to win three majors in a row.