McIlroy plans early trip to Augusta

Fight fan Rory McIlroy plans a hit and run trip to Augusta National later this month so he can clobber to his Masters nerves.

And Match Play king pin Geoff Ogilvy reckons the teen sensation has made a knockout decision that could see him contend for green jacket glory.

McIlroy could become the youngest Masters champion in history before he heads to Las Vegas to see Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton take on Manny Pacquiao as a 20th birthday treat on May 2.

Winner of the Accenture Match Play on Sunday, Ogilvy said: “If you go there playing well I can't see why he is not going to contend. The key part is the mental aspect and it will do him good to get there before the tournament.

“It would be a massive disadvantage not to do that because he gets all that out of the way and when he turns up in tournament week, he can just go.

“It is a cool place and it is worth seeing for the first time without anybody there.”

McIlroy had planned to wait until tournament week to see Augusta for the first time when he makes his Masters debut from April 9-12.

At the time he said: “It's a tournament I've watched on telly every year and to actually play in it will be a dream come true.

“But I don’t plan on getting there early. It’s not just another tournament but I am trying to treat it as just another week, if I can.”

That plan has now been ditched by McIlroy after he agreed with his manager Chubby Chandler that getting the wow-factor out of the way might be a good thing.

McIlroy has already arranged to play a practice rounds with Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara as well as stable mate Ernie Els.

And Ogilvy, who leapfrogged Padraig Harrington to go fourth in the world rankings thanks to his Accenture Match Play win over Paul Casey in Tucson, believes the Ulster kid has made a smart decision.

Ogilvy said: “The history at Augusta is the hardest thing to get your head around, for sure. You can always work a golf course out.

“This is fairly simplistic but if you keep it under the hole at Augusta, you're fine. that's simplistic view and obviously there are lots of nuances.

“But if you listen to everybody you will go mental. If you listen to all the veterans you will go crazy because they have  so many theories on how to play every hole.

“If you play with guys who have played before, they will tell you where to hit it because people do that around Augusta. Just take that and work it out yourself.

“But just going up the driveway and being in the locker room and under the tree or the way they announce you going off the first tee with fore please, it is a different kind of deal.

“It is hard at first but I made the cut my first time.  And it is a small cut. It's tricky. But as I say, if Rory goes there playing well, I can't see why he is not going to contend.”

Ogilvy took the matchplay title for the second time in four years with a 4 and 3 victory over England’s Paul Casey.

And while he’s now ranked ahead of Harrington, who slipped to fifth in the latest world rankings, he still believes he has work to do to be as good as the Dubliner or superstars like Woods, Sergio Garcia or Phil Mickelson.

Asked if he felt he was one of golf’s big four now, Ogilvy beamed: “I don't know. That's not really for me to decide. I think I'm a pretty decent player.  I played in some pretty good tournaments.

“Well there's a few guys in the world who are obviously well in front of me: Tiger, Phil, Sergio, Harrington. So there's four. So I'm at least fifth.”

But Ogilvy has no doubt that McIlroy will soon be one of the best players on the planet and he expects the US fans to sit up and take notice of him.

As he accepted the trophy in Tucson, he said: “Rory is going to be one of the best players in the world for a very long time and everyone needs to remember his name. He is incredible for 19.”