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Golf: Judge me by the majors, says McIlroy

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Rory McIlroy is preparing for his fifth Masters campaign on the back of a dismal run of results but insists that consistency is vastly overrated.

The Ulsterman, who turns 24 next month, has been struggling for form and focus since the start of the year, following his mega-bucks switch from Titleist to Nike for his golfing equipment.

What started as a glitch with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in late January, has grown into what many see as a full-scale crisis in the United States with an embarrassing walkout at the Honda Classic and a failure to compete for titles.

It's all a long way from his sublime play in the second half of last year when he won his second major title at the USPGA, topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic and, for the second time, rose to the No. 1 world ranking.

Through it all, the naturally laid-back McIlroy has remained, outwardly at least, nonplussed, and so it is for him this week as he gets in some extra practice ahead of Augusta National at the Texas Open.

Sounding distinctly like his great rival for top spot, Tiger Woods, McIlroy says that all that matters is that it all comes together for him at the four majors, starting next week.

"I don't care if I miss 10 cuts in a row if I win a major a year. I don't care," he said.

"I mean, that's what it's all about is winning the big tournaments. Of course, it's not going to be great for your confidence going into those majors if you're missing 10 cuts in a row.

"But when people look back on a person's career, you don't say Jack Nicklaus was so consistent. Okay, You could say he finished 19 times second in a major. But what you think about is the 18 majors he won.

"That's what people remember. People remember the wins. They don't remember that I shot 65 at Doral to finish 8th. I mean, people don't remember that stuff.

"But they remember the wins and they remember the high points. It's only a minority that will remember the low points and will get on you for that."

Fighting talk from the Irishman, but Augusta National, with its super-fast, undulating greens, is unforgiving to the kind of "mistakes" he says he is still making with his new clubs and may not be the ideal place to find form.

In four previous visits to the fabled Georgia layout, McIlroy has blown hot and cold.

A tie for 20th on his debut in 2009 was followed by a missed cut in 2010. Big drama was to follow in 2011 when he led by four strokes going into the final round only to collapse with an eight-over 80 and a tie for 15th place.

Last year he again started well, but once again slumped over the course of the weekend with a 77 and 76 to tie for 40th place.

All the signs are that he has yet to fully get to grips with the course in the manner of Woods or Phil Mickelson.

He will, however, have plenty of support from fellow players and fans who would like nothing more than to see him and Woods, playing well at the same time, go head to head down the back nine on Sunday.

Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington is among those who have been looking to take the pressure off the young man's shoulders ahead of what is sure to be a very public scrutiny.

"All Rory has to worry about is peaking the right weeks and his game is plenty good enough, as he has shown when he does peak, he can lap fields," the three-time major winner said.

"Consistency is highly overrated. We all want to be consistent as professional golfers but generally people that are consistent are mediocre.

"As players we go out there and practice all day looking for consistency, but conistency actually is boring, so you want the exciting peaks, even if that means that there are going to be some frustrating days afterwards, so be it.

"So if I was him, I wouldn't let anybody get inside his head and just go about his business and stay patient."

Whether or not McIlroy heeds those words of advice remains to be seen but he will know that another flop at Augusta would surely crank up the pressure on him even further.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130405/golf-judge-me-the-majors-says-mcilroy