sport

McIlroy: No excuses

Rory McIlroy admits there will be no excuses if he is not in contention for a first Masters success at Augusta National on Sunday.

McIlroy has already won the US Open and the US PGA Championship and finished third in the 2010 Open at St Andrews, but his best finish in the Masters remains a tie for 15th in 2011, when he led by four shots going into the final round but crashed to a closing 80.

However, the 24-year-old Northern Irishman is in high spirits as he prepares to tee-off on Thursday after a final round of 65 in last week's Shell Houston Open.

"Mind, body, equipment, it's all there. There's no excuses," said McIlroy. "There's no excuses if I don't play well this week.

"Everything's in the right place to allow me to play well so it's just a matter of managing my expectations, not getting ahead of myself, not thinking about Sunday when it's Friday afternoon.

"Just really keeping myself in the present and in the moment and trying to take it one shot at a time and hopefully those shots add up to about 270 and I walk away with a green jacket.

Hard work

"It's just about not getting ahead of yourself and just letting all the practice and all the work that you've put in come out in your execution and just get out of your own way.

"I think you're always excited to come back here. I really enjoy this tournament. I have no ill feelings towards 2011. I thought it was a very important day in my career.

"It was a big learning curve for me and I don't know if I had not have had that day, would I be the person and the player that I am sitting here, because I learned so much from it.

"I learned exactly not what to do under pressure and contention, and I definitely learned from that day how to handle my emotions better on the course."

McIlroy is making his sixth appearance in the Masters but will be the veteran in his group for the first two rounds after being paired with American duo Jordan Spieth, 20, and Patrick Reed, 23.

Top five

Reed hit the headlines recently for labelling himself one of the top five players in the world following his victory in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but world No 9 McIlroy joked: "There's going to be no top-five players in that group.

"Actually I played a few holes with Patrick today. It's the first time I've ever spent any time with him. He seems like a nice guy."

Reed and Spieth are among 24 rookies aiming to become the first to win on their Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and McIlroy added: "When I teed it up here for the first time I had not won a PGA Tour and I still was a pretty accomplished player.

"But Patrick has won three times on the PGA Tour, Jordan has obviously won once and last year was rookie of the year, played the Presidents Cup. So they are accomplished guys.

"I feel the first go around here you're always a little tentative. I certainly was a little tentative in 2009, but they are aggressive players, they have shown that they can play well on big stages and we'll see what they do over the next few days."