The Masters 2022: Rory McIlroy playing the waiting game – “Patience, discipline, no big numbers”

The Northern Irishman’s quest to complete the career grand slam will be based on avoiding the spectacular.

It was three years ago that Rory McIlroy's interest in the Ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism became apparent.

He'd been reading 'The Obstacle is the Way' and 'The Ego is the Enemy' by Ryan Holiday, which highlight the Stoic belief in patience and equanimity.

Three years on, his quest to win a fifth Major Championship remains unfulfilled, and his faith in the Stoics is less frequently discussed, but ahead of the first round of this year's Masters there were distinct echoes of Zeno, Epictetus and Seneca in his thoughts on the Augusta National test.

"I'm thinking just patience, discipline and don't make big numbers," he said.

"It feels like a very negative way to think, but it's not. It's the way to play around this place. Play away from trouble, don't fire at flag sticks, don't do anything spectacular.

"It's a smart game plan. It's playing the percentages.

"On Sunday, yeah, if you need to take risks, you take risks obviously. But for the first 54 holes? You just have to stay as disciplined as possible. That goes against my nature a little bit, so it is something I have to really work hard on.

"That's what this place is all about. It's as much of a chess game as anything else, and it's just about putting yourself in the right positions and being disciplined and being patient and knowing that pars are good. Even if you make a couple of pars on the par-5s, that's okay, you just keep moving forward."

McIlroy is aware that just 18 months ago he was given something of a lesson in how to pass the test.

"I played with Dustin Johnson in the first two rounds when he won here in 2020. I think he was 12-under after two days, and I got off the golf course thinking that, yeah 12-under is a hell of a good score after two days here, but I wasn't in awe of the way he played.

"It's just he did the right things, he put it in the right spots, he holed a few putts, and he took advantage of the par-5s. He basically did everything that this golf course asks of you.

"Augusta beats you into going for flags that you shouldn't go for. So, again, it's about being very disciplined with your approach play, knowing that, if you hit a wedge to 20 or 30 feet, that's okay.

"Middle of the greens, hole a few putts, that's what it's about. It's about hitting greens. It's about playing to the fat part of the green, being somewhat conservative.

"Like the big key here, you look at all the previous winners, especially over the last five to ten years, their iron play and their approach play has separated them from the field. That's a really important part of your play.

"I think that's what wins you the Masters. You see the highlights of people hitting heroic golf shots around here, but that's just one golf shot.

"The rest of the time, they're doing the right things and that's what wins you Green Jackets."

And what of his form after eight consecutive top 15 finishes have been followed by T33rd in THE PLAYERS Championship and a missed cut in last week's Texas Open?

"I would say my game feels in good shape," he said. "I think it's felt better than the results have maybe suggested the last few weeks."

READ MORE: The Masters 2022: No worries mate - Cameron Smith keeping it cool for Augusta bid

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