Golf | McIlroy to skip Par 3 Contest

Houston – Rory McIlroy revealed on Monday
that he will skip the Par 3 Contest on the eve of next week’s US Masters at
Augusta to focus on his goal of winning the year’s first major.

“I’m not going to play the Par 3
Contest this year as it’s just too much hassle and it’s a bit of a
distraction,” said the Northern Irish golfer.

The four-time major winner will be making
his eighth straight appearance in the Masters and only once has he not played
the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National.

That was five years ago in 2011 when he
went into the final round of his then third Masters leading by four shots
before the horrible meltdown of recording a last day 80 to tumble to a share of
15th place behind South African Charl Schwartzel.

“The year I had my best chance at
Augusta, and that was in 2011 as I didn’t play the Par 3 Contest so maybe the
decision not to play it this year can work in my favour,” explained

A year ago, McIlroy recorded his best
Augusta finish of fourth behind Jordan Spieth.

However in the past two years there has
been more than the normal media interest in McIlroy’s choice for his Par 3
Contest caddy.

In 2014 then fiancée and Danish-born tennis
ace Caroline Wozniacki arrived on the tee having changed the colour of her hair
to crimson while a year ago younger Augusta fans were in a frenzy when One
Direction’s Niall Horan carried McIlroy’s clubs.

Not for a first time in his career, McIlroy
spoke openly of his emotions in remarking he was ‘cheesed off’ following his
WGC – Dell Match Play semi-final defeat last week at the hands of eventual
champion Jason Day.

And then after losing the third place
shoot-out to Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello it was clear McIlroy could not leave
the Austin Country Club course quick enough.

Long-time coach Michael Bannon has arrived
from Belfast to Palm Beach Gardens and will spend the week with McIlroy at the
exclusive Bears Club honing the game of the current world number three.

And while McIlroy heads to Augusta not
having tasted success on the PGA Tour this year he was upbeat about his chances
of not only being fitted with a Masters green jacket but also becoming a member
of golf’s ultra-elite Grand Slam winners club.

“I was just so flat out there in my
match with Rafa and I was hardly holing a putt out there, and really just
wanted to get out of the place,” he said.

“So I will get into Augusta on Sunday
night and play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

“As for my game, I do feel as though I
am similar to where I was with my game last year as I am very happy with my
game as everything feels pretty good.

“And I guess you can see it as a sign
of my confidence that I am not going to Augusta early as the course changes so
much just from Wednesday to Thursday.

“So compared to a year ago and all the
hype of winning the Grand Slam, I already feel a little more mellow and a lot
more chilled.

“This year you have the attention spread
between Jordon (Spieth) going back to defend and Jason (Day) winning for a
second week in a row and also there’s Adam (Scott) who has won at Augusta
before and is coming off his back-to-back wins.

“So there’s a lot more going on around
others competing in the Masters this year already than the spotlight I found
myself in a year ago.”

McIlroy spoke also of his excitement in
having arranged an Augusta practice round with the British-born talented pair
of Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Sullivan is making his Masters debut while
it will be 21-year-old Fitzpatrick’s first as a professional, and after having
made his debut in 2014 as the then reigning US Amateur champion.

“I’ve arranged with Matt Fitzpatrick
and Andy Sullivan to play a practice round with them one day, so that will be
nice to sort of show them the Augusta ropes.

“But then they’re also very talented
and I’m sure they’ll learn fast.”

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