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Rory McIlroy ready for pursuit of career slam at Augusta

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks alongside his caddie Niall Horan of the band One Direction during the Par 3 Contest prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday at Augusta, Ga. McIlroy would complete golf’s career slam – victories at each of the four majors – if he wins this week.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks alongside his caddie Niall Horan of the band One Direction during the Par 3 Contest prior to the start of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday at Augusta, Ga. McIlroy would complete golf’s career slam – victories at each of the four majors – if he wins this week. Getty Images

Rory McIlroy has a simple way of testing if he’s ready to play in a major championship, in this case the Masters, which will begin Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I said it … last week,” said McIlroy, the world’s top-ranked player, who is going for the career grand slam this week. “If Augusta was to start tomorrow, I’d be OK. (So) I’m ready. I think that’s a good indication of where I am with my game. I’ve been ready to start this thing for a week already.”

When McIlroy won the 2014 British Open, it set him up to chase the career slam. With a victory at the 2011 U.S. Open and two at the PGA Championship (2012 and ’14), all that’s missing is the Masters.

McIlroy, 25, said the thought of achieving a career slam has never been an obsession.

“I guess the dreams were there, but it hadn’t ever entered my mind that realistically that was going to happen,” said McIlroy, whose best finish at the Masters is a tie for eighth last year.

“When I won my first major in 2011, I started to believe that I could go on to achieve bigger and better things than just being a tour pro and making a living at the game,” he said. “I felt like I could have set my goals a little higher and that’s what I’ve done. All of a sudden, I’m here and have a great opportunity to do what not many people in golf have done.”

Here’s who has done it, with the current majors: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player. Phil Mickelson also is one major away from the career slam (the U.S. Open).

McIlroy also is chasing his third consecutive major title.

“I think I’ve developed a game where I can compete at pretty much any course right now,” McIlroy said. Augusta National “is the one that should set up best for me with my ball flight and being comfortable off the tee here.”

Notes

▪ Here’s how Bubba Watson dealt with a question about a recent ESPN.com poll that resulted in him, basically, being ranked as the PGA Tour’s most unpopular player among his peers.

“I take it as I need to improve as a man,” said Watson, taking the high road. “I take it with pride. I need to get better. There’s more room to improve as a man. If it’s a bad thing that people don’t like me, then I’ve got to improve and prove them wrong.”

▪ Masters chairman Billy Payne said a cross section of the Eisenhower Tree, which was taken down from the 17th fairway in 2014 after it was damaged in an ice storm, has been donated to the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Texas. A piece of the tree also was given to Arnold Palmer this week.

▪ Amateur Scott Harvey, a real estate property manager from Kernersville, is playing his first Masters. Harvey, 36, qualified by winning the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur. His late father Bill was a top amateur player, competing in 15 U.S. Amateurs.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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