Date: November 25, 2014
Author: Bernie McGuire @ www.golfbytourmiss.com

Australian Open to be McIlroy’s Augusta omen

Rory McIlroy singles out a successful defence of his Emirates Australian Open title later this week as helpful next April in becoming only the sixth golfer in history to win the Grand Slam.

McIlroy will arrive into Sydney from Dubai early Monday evening local time ahead of teeing-up Thursday in the 110th Australian Open at the Australian Club.

The World No. 1 left Dubai having shared joint second place in the European Tour season-ending DP World Tour Championship but having secured a second European No. 1 crown in three years.

It was McIlroy’s third second place result this season in a year when he has captured two Majors, a first WGC title and the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship.

Rory McIlroy lifts the Stonehaven Trophy after capturing the 2013 Australian Open. (Photo – Anthony Powter)

Rory McIlroy lifts the Stonehaven Trophy after capturing the 2013 Australian Open. (Photo – Anthony Powter)

And while McIlroy will tee up at the Australian Club on Thursday looking to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Australian Peter Lonard in 2004 there’s just two non-Australian players in the history of the event who have won back-to-back Australian Open titles.

Eighteen-time Major winning Jack Nicklaus won the Australian Open in 1975 and retained the title in 1976.

And fellow Grand Slam golfer Gary Player is the only other non-Australian to have successfully defended the Stonehaven Trophy first in 1963 and then in 1970.

“I noticed on the trophy when I was handed it last year I was the first non-Australian to win the Australian Open since Tim Clark in 2008 but to match something that Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have achieved would be amazing,” said McIlroy.

“Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player are two players to have won the Grand Slam and there connection with the Australian Open is pretty timely for me.

“I have been thinking about Augusta next year since the 18th August this year when I won the PGA  Championship for a second time.

“So it might be a good omen for me going to Augusta in April if I could again win the  Australian Open.  I’ve said many times since winning at Royal Sydney a year ago that my Australian Open victory was pivotal to what I have achieved this year.

“And if I can win the championship again then I have to go to Augusta with a lot of confidence of winning the only Major I need to win to capture the Grand Slam.”

McIlroy revealed after the defence of his Australian Open he will travel to New York to host two corporate evenings on behalf of his Rory McIlroy Foundation.

He will then take a break from the game over Christmas and New Year prior to returning to the UAE to work on his game before his first event of 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starting on January 15th.

“I will have a little bit of downtime over Christmas and New Year, which will be nice and I’ll start practicing again early in the New Year and get ready for Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“There will not be much work to do equipment-wise even though I might tinker with a new set of irons that I have been playing about with for the last couple of months.

“But apart from that, I will just keep everything sort of the same as I am working on now.”

And McIlroy will warm-up for his Australian Open defence playing a practice round on Tuesday afternoon (local time) with 16-year old amateur sensation Ryan Ruffles.

“I played a practice round with Ryan at Royal Sydney last year and I am looking forward to playing a practice round with him on Tuesday afternoon,” said McIlroy.

“I’ve been in contact with him so we’ll meet up for some lunch in the clubhouse on Wednesday and then go out and play the golf course.

“But he’s a good player and certainly has come on in leaps and bounds in twelve months.”