THE MASTERS

Masters 2021: McGinley believes iron play will be the key at Augusta this week as the first major of the year gets underway

By Ronan MacNamara

The Masters is back in its usual April slot where a return to firmer faster conditions is expected. Having control of your iron play and finding the right levels on the greens is crucial in the more volatile conditions and Sky Sports Golf expert, Paul McGinley says it will suit the big hitters who are good iron players.

“I think the setup at the moment where we have firm and fast really correlates to a guy who’s got to be coming from the fairway and who’s got to have control of his irons.

“It generally means the bigger hitters, because going into these greens with an eight and nine iron is a huge advantage compared to a six and a five iron,” he told Golf Digest.

When asked about Bryson DeChambeau taking a more measured approach and “plotting” his way around Augusta this week like we saw him do at TPC Sawgrass at times, McGinley gave a glowing account of the US Open Champion.

“I’m looking for a big hitter who has control of his irons and that’s where Bryson is, he’s leading the scoring average on par-3s and that’s a pretty formidable statistic to be leading on the PGA Tour because there’s nothing about length as we know on the par-3s it’s all about distance control.

“He’s got nothing going on except golf and an obsession with winning major championships and being a big star and I really do think he’s going to become a bigger star and transcend the game.”

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Jon Rahm. Photo by Golffile

Jon Rahm will tee it up already on cloud nine after the birth of his son Kepa and the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, has always been a big cheerleader for Rahm heading into major championships, but this week he was rather cautious over the Spaniard’s chances.

“He’s played well this year, he’s had a lot of top 10s, he’s had a massive change in equipment, he’s changed every single club in his bag as well as the golf ball, and that’s a seismic change for any player.

“There’s still a period of adjustment going in and that would be the one thing that holds me back a bit, particularly his putting at the moment, he doesn’t seem to be putting as well with the new Odyssey putter,” he told Golf Digest.

Of the other European hopefuls looking to land a first green jacket since Sergio Garcia in 2017, the three-time Ryder Cup player told Golf Digest that it’s time for England’s Tyrrell Hatton to stand up and be counted in the majors. The Englishman has won big events including the BMW PGA at Wentworth and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The world number 8 missed three cuts last year – all in majors.

“Here’s a guy who loves the game, big wins, seems to love the heat of battle. But he missed three cuts last year and all three cuts happened to be in the three majors that he played. We are looking forward to seeing Tyrrell stand up in these majors and start to contend because we know he’s got a great skillset and a big heart.”

Speaking about veteran Lee Westwood, McGinley was quietly confident about the 47-year-old’s chances of finally breaking his major duck.

“He’s got a really good record around here, it’s a golf course that sets up nicely for him. He seems to be putting very well with the claw grip now, if his energy level is replenished his game is in good shape and these firm fast conditions may suit him.”

Rory McIlroy will have a crack at completing the career grand slam for the seventh time this week. It’s seven years since he won a major and he is without a win since the WGC HSBC Champions in November 2019. Now ranked 12th in the world, he is coming in under the radar. The four-time major winner has added Pete Cowen to his stable in a bid to return to form.

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Rory McIlroy. Photo by Golffile

McGinley hopes Cowen can come in and make the game simple for McIlroy, who is a feel player rather than a player who enjoys muddling through the technicalities and intricacies of the game.

“It’s not rocket science for Rory, if it becomes rocket science it becomes even more muddled in his head and he’s going to play worse. The big key is one or two little tweaks that are going to give him that sense of the club head back again.

“Then from there it’s just confidence and we know Rory more than anybody in the game where he can get confident very quickly. So I’m hoping and trusting that Pete is going to just give him something,” he added.

Watch all four rounds of the Masters live and exclusive, as well as previews, highlights and archive footage on Sky Sports The Masters and NOW.

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