Rory McIlroy reveals what’s holding him back at the Masters

Only five players have won the modern career grand slam: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. That’s it. Of the thousands of golfers who’ve ever teed it up in a men’s major, these five players are the standard.

Plenty of accomplished golfers have come close to joining them. Tom Watson, winner of eight major titles, has won all but the PGA Championship. Likewise for Arnold Palmer. Lee Trevino won six majors, but without the green jacket, he comes up one title short of the grand slam. And without the U.S. Open to his credit, Phil Mickelson’s grand slam resume is also lacking just one major title.

In the current era of golf, you can add Rory McIlroy’s name to that list. He’s triumphed at three of the four majors thus far (PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship), but a win at Augusta National has eluded him. He’s come close before, with seven top 10s at Augusta National to his credit, but after 15 trips down Magnolia Lane, his trophy room is still lacking one biggie.

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“I think sometimes because it’s the one I haven’t won, the only thing I think about that week is winning it,” McIlroy said on a recent appearance on GOLF’s Subpar. “And that’s not the way to approach a golf tournament.”

Back in 2011, before McIlroy had won any major championships, he entered the back nine at Augusta National on Sunday with the lead. But after two bogeys, a double and a triple on the inward half, he finished a distant ten shots behind eventual winner Charl Schwartzel. Ever since that day, the demons at the Masters have only become harder to shake.

“I think sometimes at Augusta I’m too much of a leaderboard-watcher too early,” McIlroy said. “So for example this year, Brooks [Koepka] got off to that really hot start, and he was on the 8th green on Friday morning, and I was on the 1st green. And I think I was even par for the tournament, and I think Brooks had just birdied the 8th to go to 10 under for the tournament, so I’m already 10 shots back and I already feel like I need to chase and I need to do something.”

In most tournaments, McIlroy does not concern himself with the leaderboard and everyone else in the field too early. He simply plays his game, makes some birdies and tries to get into contention going into the closing stretch. But at the Masters, that’s not always the case.

“I probably get in my head a little too much around there at times,” McIlroy said. “But there have been other times where I’ve handled it ok and I’ve had good results.”

Check out the entire episode below.

Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at