Golf

In-form Rory McIlroy chases career Grand Slam at Augusta National

Rory McIlroy is in fearsome form as he arrives at Augusta National pursuing a rare career Grand Slam, but a renewed Tiger Woods could have something to say about the Northern Ireland star's bid for a breakthrough Masters win.

"I don't think I've started a season this well in terms of finishes. Looking at all my stats, they are right up there with some of the best years that I've had," said McIlroy, whose seven top-10 finishes in seven starts this year include a victory at the US PGA Tour's prestigious Players Championship last month.

He owns top-10 Masters finishes the past four years and, with more than a decade of experience on a course where local know-how is key, says there's no reason he can't become the sixth man to win all four of golf's major professional titles.

"I've shot enough good scores here over the years that if I can put my best effort, I'm going to have a good chance to do well here," McIlroy said.

Just as confident is Woods, who carries not just the hope he had last year - in his first Masters since spinal fusion surgery - but real belief that he can claim a fifth green jacket.

"I just feel like I've improved a lot over the past 12, 14 months," said Woods.

From a tie for 32nd, he would go on to contend in two Majors and win the US PGA Tour Championship, and says he's "proven to myself that I can play at this level again".

Woods, 43, admitted he would never have foreseen the Major drought that has followed his 14th Major victory at the 2008 US Open.

"I put myself there with chances on the back nine on various Sundays and just haven't done it. Hopefully this year, I'll get it done," he said. - AFP

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