Butch Harmon has urged Rory McIlroy to “relax and play golf” if he’s to end his major drought and complete the career Grand Slam at The Masters.

McIlroy is without a major victory since his 2014 PGA Championship success and arrives at Augusta National having made a slow start to the PGA Tour season, failing to finish higher than 19th in his first five starts this year.

The Northern Irishman revealed he made a trip to Las Vegas last month for a four-hour lesson with Harmon, something he has done multiple times during his career, with McIlroy describing Tiger Woods’ former coach as a “half golf coach, half psychologist“.

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McIlroy talks through the recent swing changes that he’s been working on with Harmon

McIlroy has six top-10s at Augusta National over the past decade, including a runner-up finish to Scottie Scheffler in 2022, with Harmon confident he can challenge for the Green Jacket this week.

“There is no doubt about it,” Harmon told the media of The Masters. “You can always say he has got to be one of the favourites going in there. His game is built for there with his ability to drive the ball.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports Golf Podcast, Gary Murphy and Richard McEvoy believe lower expectations could help McIlroy at The Masters

“He has just got to relax and play golf, which is very easy to say but he wants it so bad. We want it for him. The press wants it for him. The fans want it for him. His family wants it for him and that gets in the way of allowing you to be yourself.

“I think if he can just go and be Rory McIlroy, he is going to have a great time and have a great chance on the back nine on Sunday, which is all you can live for. His game, other than the way I thought he was hitting his short iron shots, was pretty good.”

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McIlroy won on the DP World Tour earlier this year with a successful title defence at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic but has struggled for consistency on the PGA Tour, with approach play a particular area where Harmon looked to make improvements.

“At TPC Sawgrass [The Players] he made 26 birdies and finished like 20th,” Harmon explained. “For his bogeys, he was missing greens with nine-irons and wedges, so that was some of the work we did.

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Nick Dougherty believes Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and McIlroy will all be competing to wear the green jacket in Augusta and hopes McIlroy can complete a career grand slam to write his name in history

“We were trying to get his swing from what I would call 150 yards in, which is where he plays most holes from, and control the distance of the ball and the shape of the shot. We worked hard on that.

“There were a couple of little, minor fixes to his swing that unless I showed you the film, you probably wouldn’t even recognise them. He was very happy, took it away, and said he played really well when he was at Augusta [practice round].

“It will be interesting to see how it goes but, I think mindset wise, his head is in the right place and the right space. I think he has much more confidence now in what he is doing, so we will just have to see.

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“If he can just relax and play golf, then he gives himself a chance. If he gives himself a chance, he is hard to beat.”

Scheffler under pressure at Augusta?

World No 1 Scheffler arrives as the overwhelming favourite to win The Masters for the second time in three years, having won eight times in 26 months as part of a dominant stretch on the PGA Tour.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports Golf Podcast, Rob Lee and Jamie Spence say it is unfair on Scheffler to compare him to Tiger Woods after his blistering start to his career

Scheffler won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players last month ahead of a runner-up finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, with Harmon backing the American to handle the pressure of coming into the opening major of the year as the man to beat.

“I think when all the media attention and expectations are on your shoulders, it is a lot more pressure,” Harmon added. “A lot of guys who got to No 1 in the world didn’t stay there very long; they couldn’t handle that pressure – it’s more the off-course pressure than the on-course pressure.

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Rob Lee and Jamie Spence don’t believe it’s realistic to expect Scheffler to win all four majors this year after Dame Laura Davies tipped him for the Grand Slam

“It’s the media stuff, the extra stuff you have to do, the demands on your time that you’re not accustomed to. Scottie’s a very nice young man who has a great family, so I think he has the demeanour that can handle it, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles it coming in here.

“He’s never come into The Masters with all of this anticipation on his shoulders as the No 1 player in the world, the hottest player in the world. How he handles it, I think we will see right away on Thursday with what kind of start he gets off to.

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Scheffler says he has a way to go before he can be compared to 15-time major winner Tiger Woods

“Is he the Scottie Scheffler that we’ve seen, the great ball striker that he’s been? We’ll get to see all this stuff on Thursday, and then that’ll give us a little understanding of his demeanour and how his nervous system is handling the off-course stuff.

“You look at Rory McIlroy when he was kind of the mouthpiece of the PGA Tour, his game kind of suffered because he was always in meetings, he was always having to talk about it, and I was happy when he stepped away from that so he could just go back to working on his game.

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Dame Laura Davies believes Scheffler will be the favourite heading into The Masters after defending The Players Championship

“I think Scheffler has a very calming demeanour in his life and the way he lives his life, and I think that’s going to be a great asset for him. I’m very excited to see myself coming into The Masters as the man that everybody thinks they have to beat and how he handles that.”

When is The Masters on Sky Sports?

Wall-to-wall coverage from the tournament begins at 2pm over the first two rounds on Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, with Featured Group action and regular updates from around the course available to enjoy on Sky Sports Golf until the global broadcast window begins at 8pm.

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There will be lots of extra action throughout all four days via the red button on Sky Sports Golf, along with Sky Q and Sky Glass, providing plenty of bonus feeds and allowing you to follow players’ progress through various parts of Augusta’s famous layout.

Sky Sports Golf will show extended build-up content over the weekend and occasional live updates from the course before the global broadcast window starts at 8pm for the third round and 7pm for the final day, with early action available throughout via the red button.

Who will win The Masters? Watch live from April 11-14 exclusively on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Groups on Thursday April 11 from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, majors and more with NOW.


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