‘The worst thing I did’: Rory McIlroy reveals a mistake he made at 2023 Masters

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy on the 13 hole at Augusta National, during last year's Masters.

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Rory McIlroy can joke about the Masters. 


Take this banter, for example, between him and former soccer pro Ian Wright last week on the Stick to Football podcast. Wright started it.

“When it doesn’t happen for you in the Masters, I stop watching. I stop watching because I want to see …”

Here, McIlroy interrupted. 

“I wish I could stop watching, too.” 

They weren’t done. About a minute later, Wright commented:

“You know what I don’t like about the Masters is getting there and there’s some blokes who can get in there with their green jacket and I can’t go.”

This one was easy for McIlroy. It was put on a tee. 

“How do you think I feel? That’s the same.”

Good stuff. Who knew misery and heartbreak could be so hilarious? We joke there, though, because seemingly McIlroy can over his white whale. But you and him know the scoreboard: two PGA Championship wins, one U.S. Open, one Open Championship — and zero Masters. No career Grand Slam. Of course, only five players have won the latter, so McIlroy is far from alone here. 

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It’s just that he’s come close. And not so close. Both, his supporters would probably argue, are frustrating. To the latter, McIlroy finished second at the Masters two years ago, thanks to a final-round 64. And in 2018, he played in the final pairing with eventual winner Patrick Reed. And in 2011, he led by four going into the final round, only to shoot an 80 on Sunday. 

But there’s been more also-rans from McIlroy at Augusta National, which is at least curious given his skill. It certainly was last year, when the 34-year-old opened with an ever-par 72, ballooned to a 77 in the second round and missed the cut. But to that finish specifically, McIlroy had a thought as to where it all went wrong.    

On the podcast — which you can listen to in full here — McIlroy said he looked at the leaderboard while playing the first hole during the second round. 

He said it was “the worst thing I did that day.”

Here is the complete exchange, started by former soccer pro Jamie Carragher, followed up by Wright and ended by McIlroy:

Said Carragher: “… And there’s this big buildup to Augusta and the other majors, it’s over four days, and that first day doesn’t go well, and you almost think, you almost know it’s gone not quite the first day, but maybe the second day, as well. How is that sort of for you mentally for the next couple of days when you’ve had this big buildup that you think you’re going to be …

Said Wright: “And if you are starting well, with all the pressure that’s on you, because it’s the grand slam. So how do you deal with the fact that maybe you start bad and you think I might get it going, or you start brilliant, and you think this might be happening?”

Said McIlroy: “Yeah, they’re different sides of the same coin in terms of having to stay in the present, in the moment, all the cliche stuff. So even a good one this year, I shot even-par the first day, which is an average enough first day, but it wasn’t terrible. And I was on the first green on the second morning, and I saw Brooks Koepka was coming up the eighth and there’s a big white scoreboard there, by the eighth green, and I saw that he had already got to 10-under and I’m even-par, so I’m — but it’s only 19 holes into the tournament, but I’m there thinking, jeez, I’m 10 behind already, like I have to start pressing, when actually what’s worked best for me is I can’t control what he does, I can’t control the leaderboard and the worst thing I did that day was look at the leaderboard because if I hadn’t have known — the winning score ended up being 10-under, I think. (Editor’s note: Jon Rahm won at 12-under.)

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“So I thought I needed to get to 10-under in the space of like 18 or 27 holes when I actually could have said, OK, chill out, it’s fine, you know, go and play your normal game, see where you’re at. But I think whenever I’ve gotten into trouble, especially at that tournament, is when I start looking around and I’m like, oh, he’s doing this and I should be there and you start putting the pressure on yourself.”

On the podcast, Carragher said he was impressed by the admission. He said it was great to hear that McIlroy had “vulnerability.”

The back-and-forth on the topic then ended this way:  

“Yeah, I think at Augusta, too, for me, I sometimes do things that I wouldn’t normally do because of what it is and the pressure and all this sort of stuff,” McIlroy said on the podcast. “And I’m completely open about that. That — I think I need to embrace that, instead of shutting away from it. And every time you go back, you learn something different. 

“You know, I’ve had my chances at Augusta before, and every year, it’s like, OK, I’ll take that little bit and try to put it into the next year, but after 14 or 15 years of it, you’re like, OK, it’s time to get this done.”

Editor’s note: To watch the entire podcast with McIlroy, please scroll down. To listen to the entire podcast, please click here.  

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