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Masters 2015: Early taste of Augusta mania for Rory McIlroy as America ramps up the hype

McIlroy had an encounter with Tom Brady in the gym

In truth, McIlroy was not out of place amongst those sporting Goliaths, particularly if the cover of the Masters edition of Golf Digest is taken at face value. There is McIlroy posing as Michelangelo’s David.

At about the same time as that image hit the news-stands, EA Sports was announcing McIlroy as the new face of its computer game, Rory McIlroy PGA Tour. For 15 years, it was called Tiger Woods PGA Tour, an association which was reported to have earned Woods more than £100 million. And so the hype grows.

From such an overload of expectation, McIlroy has always claimed to find release on the course and, ironically, even on the course where early next month he could become just the sixth player to win the career grand slam. “Out visit to Augusta was only about enjoying myself and Dad and I had a great time,” McIlroy said.

“At least Dad now appreciates what I go through one week a year. So when I come off and he wants to ask ‘why did you do that on the sixth?’ or ‘why did you go there on the 14th?’ he will know it’s not that easy.”

McIlroy on the front cover of Golf Digest

The McIlroys left Augusta last Friday night and by Sunday were having lunch at the Bear’s Club near his home in South Florida. Nicklaus was also dining at the club named in his honour and the conversation inevitably fell on to Augusta tactics. “We had a little chat and he was saying that if you hit the ball in the middle of the greens there, you’ll be OK,” Mcilroy said.

Two days later McIlroy headed north to Orlando for his debut at Palmer’s event and following today’s opening round he will have an audience with ‘The King’. “We are having dinner and that will be good, “ McIlroy said with his trademark ordinariness. Palmer has been trying to entice the boy wonder for years and finally has succeeded. “I’m very happy to have him here and I’m sure he will play well,” Palmer said.

McIlroy sounded convinced of the same and that is all because of another unscheduled meeting last week. After his erratic display at Doral two weeks ago, where he finished tied ninth, McIlroy got on the phone to his long-time coach Michael Bannon. And soon the elder Ulsterman was flying over the Atlantic.

“We did some good work,” McIlroy said. “We figured a few things out and it feels much better. It’s important for me to play well here in my final event before Augusta. There’s no better way to prepare than being in contention.”

Bubba Watson, the world No 2 and defending Masters champion, withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational late on Wednesday because of a friend’s death. The next three in the rankings – Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Day – are in the field.

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