Coach: Rory's in great shape

Rory McIlroy (AFP)
Rory McIlroy (AFP)

Augusta - Two-time major champion Rory McIlroy is in the best shape of his career with mind, body and equipment entering a major event, according to his assistant coach, Dave Stockton.

With McIlroy among the favorites this week in the 78th Masters at Augusta National, Stockton likes the Northern Irishman's chances after a strong final round at the PGA Houston Open.

"Every club he has in the bag he is happy with and Rory is in a really good place mind, body and soul," Stockton said.

Stockton says last year's rally to beat reigning Masters champion Adam Scott at the Australian Open was a key turning point, a strong finish to a year nagged by changing equipment and poor results.

"I look back to that Australian Open win as it was pivotal because not only did it keep alive a streak of Rory having won at least one event a year since 2009 but to end his year with a win was a great lift for him," Stockton said.

"But then I felt bad for him a few weeks ago when he lost out in a playoff for the Honda Classic because I would have liked to have seen him win. And while he lost out he learned from it and he bounced back pretty well.

"He's still in a good place and I was pleased he competed in Houston after having three weeks off."

During those three weeks between the Cadillac Championship and Houston, Stockton spent two of those weeks working with McIlroy at the exclusive Bear's Club.

"We had a long practice session on his putting, easily more than two hours, and he was serious," Stockton said.

"So he has put a lot into getting ready for this week and I just want him to enjoy it.

"All I am saying to him now is 'Nice putt, nice putt' and his frame of mind is normally really good.

"That's still very much the case so he's right there.

Stockton was the US captain in the 1991 Ryder Cup 'War on the Shore' win at Kiawah Island and won the 1970 and 1976 PGA Championships and finished second to South African legend Gary Player at the 1974 Masters.

While McIlroy has already won a PGA and US Open, Stockton says the Masters is the title McIlroy wants most, especially after leading at Augusta National until a back-nine collapse in 2011.

"The Masters is top of Rory's list given he came so close in 2011," said Stockton, who began working with the Irish prodigy shortly thereafter and ahead of his win at the 2011 US Open at Congressional Country Club.

"He changed from what I saw as a pace problem at the Masters because he and (Angel) Cabrera were out in the last group and Rory just played too fast," Stockton said.

"Not one then thought Rory would win at Congressional but he just blew them all away. So even though we know what happened at Augusta back in 2011 he will go there with no scars."

And McIlroy arrived on the heels of a bogey-free 65 at Houston.

"It was a good way to end the week, obviously," McIlroy said.

"I wanted to shoot something in the 60s at least to give me some positive vibes going into Augusta.

"I played really well, played really solid from tee-to-green. I holed the putts that I felt I should hole and just kept the ball in play all day."

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