Rory McIlroy could make short work of Augusta, says Ian Woosnam

Rory McIlroy could make short work of Augusta, says IAN WOOSNAM as former Masters champion envisages a compelling contest with Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns

  • Woosnam says Augusta suits McIlroy, the world No 1, down the ground 
  • He also believes Burns, winner of the World Match Play, could win the Masters
  • Welshman is looking forward to the champions dinner drawn up by Scheffler 

With his near-daily practice routine on the courses close to his Barbados home and his fully committed appearances on golf’s Legends Tour, Ian Woosnam is proud to report that he has managed to shed some weight in recent months. 

Thankfully, however, on the morning before he flies to this weekend’s Masters, a player who was loved partly for his relatively relaxed approach to diet and fitness is not so concerned about his waistline that it might compromise his enjoyment of Tuesday’s champions dinner.

‘Have you seen the menu?’ Woosnam asks, taking in the Caribbean’s morning sun, while looking tanned and fit for a 65-year-old. ‘It’s looking good. Wagyu burgers, little sliders, nice big piece of fish, whatever you want. I’m looking forward to that.’

Drawn up by Scottie Scheffler, last year’s champion and clearly a proud Dallasite, the five courses also include Texan ribeye steak, firecracker shrimp and a warm chocolate chip cookie. Woosnam will look to burn off the calories with a practice round before watching the main event from behind the ropes.

He envisages a compelling contest, naming Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, the world No1 and No2, and Sam Burns, recent winner of the World Match Play, as three of his potential champions.

Ian Woosnam says Augusta suits Rory McIlroy, the world No 1, down the ground

He also believes Sam Burns, recent winner of the World Match Play, could win the Masters

‘Rory’s playing well,’ he says, jokingly comparing McIlroy’s recently shortened drive-shaft to a trick of his own. ‘It looks like he’s sorted his driver out, half an inch up — he copied me.

‘That’s one of the things you need at Augusta. If you’re driving well and long, it makes it easier. His irons are pretty good. Putter seems to be going well.’

What does he think might have prevented McIlroy from completing the set of major wins at Augusta, despite having finished in the top 10 eight times? 

‘Maybe his expectations. Maybe that’s the one he really, really wants. You would think it suits him down to the ground. If I was ever going to win a major, it would be the one I’d want to win. He plays very much similar, big, high draw and he can hold the ball off well.’

Woosnam was only 33 when he won the Masters and went on to record another 11 of his 29 tournament wins, but the achievement did not propel him to fresh heights in the manner that it might have done. 

‘I started p*****g around thinking, “What should I do to my swing, to make myself better?” I made a massive mistake there. I should have just said to me, “I’ve got to No1 in the world, I’ve just won a major, why do I want to change things?” But you strive to do more and I lost my confidence.’

Woosnam’s swing was formidably effective as it was. In the final round of his triumphant Augusta campaign, he was able twice to drive the ball further than 300 yards, then a landmark distance. Thanks mostly to developments in club technology, he hits the ball even further today.

The feat troubles him. Woosnam is not alone among those purists who fears power is being prioritised at the expense of finesse and wants a limitation placed on professionals’ equipment.

The new ball recently proposed by the R&A and USGA, he suggests, would not go far enough. ‘They’re trying to roll this ball out,’ he says. ‘Take five per cent off [the shot length]. Is that going to make any difference? It’s rubbish really. There should be clubs and golf balls for professionals and keep the game as it is for amateurs. There is a scope for doing that. If you wanted to turn professional, this is the equipment you use. Take 25 per cent off the golf ball or the club.’

Ian Woosnam is looking forward to Tuesday’s champions dinner drawn up by Scottie Scheffler

Another, predictable frustration for Woosnam is the row that has enveloped the game since Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund launched the LIV Tour.

Woosnam said: ‘I can understand people who are a bit older going into the tour, but youngsters… for me, you play for trophies and records.’

The acrimony that has ensued between players troubles him. Not least when he enjoyed a good rapport with most of his contemporaries, including those with whom he is breaking bread this week. ‘Yeah, it is sad to see, the bitterness, it’s childish really. It all comes down to money.’

Ian Woosnam plays the Legends Tour at Jersey’s La Moye Golf Club this year. For information and to register for free tickets:

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