Masters 2013: Rory McIlroy sets sights on Augusta glory

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Rory McIlroy prepares to challenge for the 2013 Masters title

The Masters

Venue:
Augusta National, Georgia
Dates:
11-14 April
Live coverage:
BBC Two, HD & online from 18:30 BST on Saturday and 19:30 BST on Sunday; BBC Radio 5 live from 21:00 BST daily; Amen Corner online on Saturday and Sunday; Daily text commentary

Rory McIlroy says anything less than victory at the Masters this week would be disappointing.

The 23-year-old has a best finish of tied 15th in four visits to Augusta.

McIlroy recently lost his world number one ranking to Tiger Woods and suffered poor early season form but feels he is now ready to challenge for a third major title.

"Would anything less than a win be a disappointment this week? Yes, it would be," he said.

The Northern Irishman added: "Every time you come here you're wanting to win that Green Jacket and every time you don't, it's another chance missed.

"But if I'm sitting here on Sunday night and I've finished second or if I've given it a good run, you can't be too disappointed because you've had a great tournament. But the ultimate goal is getting one of those jackets."

McIlroy, who first reached number one in March last year, endured a difficult start to this season after changing his club and ball manufacturers.

He missed the cut in his first event in Abu Dhabi and lost to Shane Lowry in the first round of the World Match Play in Arizona.

On 1 March, his defence of the Honda Classic came to a controversial end when he walked off the course after eight holes of his second round, with a sore wisdom tooth cited as his reason for doing so - something he later apologised for.

He tied eighth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship but a 45th at the Houston Open prompted a late decision to play in last week's Texas Open - forcing him to pull out of a charity trip to Haiti with Unicef - and he finished second behind Scotsman Martin Laird.

He believes a change of clubs is now starting to pay off, while any demons he may have had following his infamous meltdown at Augusta two years ago are long gone.

"I love it," he said. "I had a chance to win in 2011 and obviously that didn't go too well, but still doesn't change the fact that it's my favourite golf tournament.

"It probably took me a while to get fully comfortable on the grounds - it took me a while to get comfortable taking a divot. But once you get over that, I feel it's a place I can do well at."

McIlroy's £75m switch to using Nike equipment made him a stablemate of Woods and the pair have become friends, despite the American regaining his long-held number one spot with a third win of the year at Bay Hill.

McIlroy, though, denies he is Woods's main rival.

"I don't see myself as a rival to Tiger or to anyone," he said.

"When you speak of rivals you tend to put rivals who have had similar success. He's got 77 PGA Tour titles, I've got six, he's got 14 majors, I've got two.

"If I saw myself as a rival to Tiger I wouldn't really be doing him much justice."

McIlroy is one of several European players who Englishman Luke Donald believes can mount a serious challenge for the first major of 2013.

The last player from the continent to don the Green Jacket was Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.

"Does it surprise me? Nothing surprises me in golf anymore," Donald said when asked about the barren run.

"I think since I've been a professional, I feel like the fields have gotten a lot stronger, a lot deeper. Anyone on a given week has a chance to win.

"This game is a very mental game and it's almost who are the least fragile players that week that have a chance.

"Everyone has the talent and the ability to win and there's a bunch of great and good European players right now - Justin [Rose] and Poults [Ian Poulter] and Rory [McIlroy] and Graeme [McDowell], and the list goes on and on. But we certainly have as good a chance this year as any other."

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