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Barely an hour before Rory McIlroy entered the interview room at Augusta National, Tiger Woods was making his own headlines. 

During his press conference ahead of his 26th Masters, Woods addressed the possibility of becoming Ryder Cup captain in 2025 and, predictably, signalled his belief that he can win a sixth Green Jacket.

Yet Woods spoke with the most conviction when he asked about his close friend McIlroy’s chances of completing the career grand slam.

“No question, he’ll do it at some point,” Woods insisted. “Rory’s too talented, too good. He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time. He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when.

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“I think that Rory will be a great Masters champion one day, and it could be this week. You never know. I just think that just, again, the talent that he has, the way he plays game and the golf course fits his eye, it’s just a matter of time.”

McIlroy is making his tenth bid at the grand slam this year, aiming to join an exclusive club that includes just Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player as the only players to have won all four career-defining events.

It wasn’t long, then, before the Northern Irishman was asked about Woods’ remarks ahead of his latest tilt.

“Yeah, it’s flattering. It’s nice to hear, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game say something like that,” McIlroy said. “I mean, does that mean that it’s going to happen? Obviously not. But he’s been around the game long enough to know that I at least have the potential to do it.

“I know I’ve got the potential to do it too. It’s not as if I haven’t been a pretty good player for the last couple of decades. But, yeah, it’s nice to hear it when it comes out of his mouth.”

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McIlroy arrived at Augusta shortly before his media duties and has taken different steps to prepare this year as he plans to skip the traditional Wednesday par-3 tournament.

When asked how he’s learned to manages his emotions for Masters week, the four-time major champion said: “I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot. I think that’s something that I’ve tried to learn. It’s a 72-hole golf tournament. I’ve won from 10 strokes back going into the weekend.

“There’s loads of different ways to do it. This golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses, if you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, because it always tempts you to do something you think you can do.

“I’m pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient.

“With a 72-hole golf tournament, you can be patient, you can be disciplined, and you can stick to your game plan. And that’s something that I’ve really tried to learn at this tournament over the years.”

In what turned out to be a pretty slap-dash back-and-forth with the media, McIlroy said he has enjoyed reconnecting with legendary swing coach Butch Harmon.

“It’s regular,” he confirmed. “We text on a daily basis.

“Anyone that has been to see Butch over the years [will know] the first thing he’ll do is bring you into his office. We sat and had a 45-minute conversation before he even looked at a swing or even before we really talked about golf at all. We talked about a lot of other stuff.

“He’s part psychologist, part swing coach. I always joke about [how] you spend four hours with Butch and you go away with two swing tips and 30 stories. But you always go away hitting the ball better than when you came.

“So, yeah, it was really beneficial trip for the technical side of things, which I think I made progress in that department last week, especially with my Strokes Gained: Approach numbers, which is what I really wanted to do.

“It’s also just spending time around someone like that that’s coached a lot of the best players in the world and sort of him giving you his blessing on things, I think that’s nice validation as well.”

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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