Next week at Augusta National, Rory McIlroy bows out of a portion of the “tradition unlike any other,” choosing not to play in the annual three-par competition at the Masters.
The #3-ranked golfer in the world claims the event can be a “hassle” and maintains that his decision can work to his advantage. “It’s a bit of a distraction and the year I had my best chance at Augusta, 2011, I didn’t play the par-three contest,” McIlroy told the Guardian.
That year a miserable seven over 43 back nine decimated the 4-shot lead he enjoyed at the turn on Sunday, halting the Irishman’s chances to win. Meanwhile South African Charl Schwartzel fired a back nine 32 on way to a 66 and a two shot victory over Australian Adam Scott.
For the second year in a row McIlroy seeks to accomplish the elusive career grand slam by winning the fabled tournament held every spring since American Horton Smith won it for the first time in 1934. The tournament was canceled from 1943-1945 during World War II.
McIlroy already owns two PGA championships, a U.S. Open Championship, and a British Open Championship. Only five golfers have won all four of golf’s modern majors: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.
Instead of the the three-par event McIlroy plans to play a practice round with Englishmen Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan, both newcomers to the tournament. “I already feel a little more mellow and a lot more chilled compared to the all the hype around me a year ago,” McIlroy said.
The 26-year-old Irishman admits that things feel different this year. “You have the attention spread between Jordan [Spieth] going back to defend, 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 own back-to-back wins,” he said. “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.”