McIlroy will 'live inside a bubble' at Augusta to prevent another Masters meltdown
20:57 GMT, 30 March 2012
Rory McIlroy has revealed he will cut himself off from the outside world in his bid for Augusta redemption after taking the advice of another man who knows what it's like to suffer a Masters meltdown.
McIlroy famously looked set for glory last year when he took a four-shot lead into the final round only to shoot a nightmare 80 to help hand the green jacket to South Africa's Charl Schwartzel.
There followed a lot of soul-searching for the then 21-year-old Northern Irishman en route to his much-heralded maiden major at the US Open at Congressional two months later.
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And he revealed a key part of his recovery was the advice offered by Norman, who suffered his own implosion at Augusta in 1996 when his final-day 78 gifted Nick Faldo his third Masters title.
'I've only met Greg a handful of times but he's always one of the first to text me or call me after a win,' said McIlroy. 'He's very generous with his time and always goes out of his way to say congratulations. He's just a genuinely nice guy.
'He reached out to me after Augusta last year which was a really nice thing to do. He gave me some advice which I thought were really valuable. I took it into practice and it has definitely worked for me.
'He told me about creating this little bubble around myself in the week of the tournament. You don't read magazines, or newspapers and you don't watch TV.
'You just try and separate yourself from everything and focus on the task in hand, which is the golf.
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'It's something I've tried to put into practise since last year. I haven't been going on twitter or reading the papers or watching TV in the run-up to events and that has worked, so I'll be trying to adopt the same approach.'
McIlroy sounded in buoyant mood as he approached his return to the scene of the biggest of golfing nightmares. Winning that maiden major makes all the difference, of course, but he still sounded like a young man well up for both the mental and sporting challenge lying ahead next week.
'For 63 holes last year, I led the tournament. It was just those nine holes that everyone concentrated on,' he explained.
'I learned a lot about myself. I learned how to control my emotions a little better. I learned what works for me best whenever I get into situations like that. I was able to put that right a couple of months later when I won the US Open. It is not like I have not learned from it. It would just be great to put myself in that position again and challenge myself and see if I am up to the test.'
So was there a specific point last year he knew his attempt at a first major was about to unravel And how will he feel when he walks on to the 10th tee, where it all went horribly wrong
'The whole of the Sunday felt a little different,' revealed the world No 2. 'I was almost trying to be this person that I wasn't. Sort of ultra-focused, tunnel vision, whatever you want to call it.
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'I hit a great shot off the first and had a little wedge into the first green and I remember on the top of my backswing and on the way down, I said to myself “don't go left”. That was the first really tentative swing I had made the whole week. That was when I felt it was completely different from the first three days.
'At Amen Corner there are bound to be some emotions to deal with. When I step onto the 10th tee the memories will come flooding back – you wouldn't be human if that didn't happen. You can't just block them out. So it's not a bad thing to go there early and get that stuff out of the way, so you can concentrate on the tournament.
'I think the main thing about Augusta is going up there and re-familiarising yourself with the course, and making sure you have sussed it out the best you can, seeing if there have been any little changes. I feel like I've been playing pretty well and I've been hitting the ball great in practice, so I think I just need to keep doing that.'
If that's not enough to be thinking about, there is also the return of a certain prowling Tiger. But McIlroy sounded like the four-time winner's upturn in form is merely one of many challenges.
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He said: 'I think having Tiger playing well is definitely a great thing for golf. He produces excitement and interest that no-one else can.
'But for me personally, it doesn't do anything. I just have to concentrate on myself.'
McIlroy was talking as part of his promotion for the new Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game, which is out now. For the second time in three years he appears on the box of the EA Sports title, and it's a relationship he says he wants to continue.
'It's a great feeling to walk past a shop and see yourself on the front cover of a game that you've played since you were a kid,' he said. 'It's a nice accomplishment and hopefully I can stay on the cover of the game for a lot longer!
'When you play the game, I think you have to play as yourself so the more realistic you can make it the better! I really enjoyed the motion capture session and the likeness is really good on the game. The swing is very similar to mine.
'I think the game gives the general public a great opportunity to see all of Augusta. When you watch it on TV, you only see a few of the holes but this give you an opportunity to see the whole course and, when it's as realistic as it is, it gives a real sense of what Augusta's like with the huge elevation changes.'
Rory McIlroy stars in EA SPORTS Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 which is out NOW on Kinect, Xbox 360 and PS3. Order your copy at www.amazon.co.uk or visit www.ea.com/uk/tiger-woods for more information.