TV analyst Brandel Chamblee believes Rory McIlroy has overcome the big miss left that has cost him Masters glory in the past. But while the American sees the world No 3 as the man to beat at Augusta National this year, the physical breakdown of Tiger Woods makes him fear that Irish golf's four time major champion may end up overdoing things in the gym.
Judging by his rapid Twitter response, McIlroy does not share Chamblee's concerns:
"Yeah, I think as it relates to Augusta National, there was a period of time, and it certainly came into play in 2011 on the back nine, where his miss was big and to the left," Chamblee said in telephone preview of NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Florida Swing. "And anybody that struggles with the left miss at Augusta National, and I believe it was Craig Harmon who famously said it's not the left miss at Augusta that kills you it's the thought of missing left. So it leads to a little bit more conservative play than you otherwise would.
"You maybe wouldn't take the hard line off of 2 or 13 or even 14 or 9, so to speak. And I think Rory has overcome that. His big miss to the left is in the past for the most part. He had his best finish ever last year at the masters finishing fourth. So if you look at what he's doing, it would be very hard to not put him as the favourite at the Masters. Even given Jordan Spieth's success there.
"The only thing that gives me concern with regard to Rory going forward I say it with a lot of trepidation, because it's a different era for sure. And I don't know the full extent of what he's doing, but when I see the things he's doing in the gym, I think of what happened to Tiger Woods and I think more than anything as much as what Tiger Woods did early in his career with his game was just an example of how good a human being can be, what he did towards the middle and end of his career is an example to be wary of. That's just my opinion. And it does give me a little concern when I see the extensive weightlifting that Rory is doing in the gym."
Former Open winner and world No 1 David Duval sees no reason why McIlroy will not be ready for the Masters, especially as he's adding two events to his schedule and playing five of the next six weeks.
"Anytime Rory McIlroy plays Augusta National he's going to be the favourite if not one of the favourites," Duval said. "And he has over the past couple of years continued to improve and continued got to know the golf course better and played better subsequently the last couple of years.
"So I think him playing beforehand a good stretch like that going in is a very good thing. There's a lot ofthere's a big difference between hitting golf balls and getting ready and practicing compared to actually competing under the gun and having to put a pencil to it to find out where your short coming are at the time and that's exactly his approach this year.
"I believe he wants that bad, the green jacket. And he's going to do everything including schedulingwise, to make certain that he's as prepared as possible."
Bangor native David Feherty, who has joined the NBC team this year, does not believe putting will be an issue for McIlroy at Augusta, even if he has spoken often about his technique since Spieth's spectacular performance on the greens last year.
"I think the putter is the toughest club in the bag when it comes to Augusta National," Feherty said . The greens are just so intimidating. If you don't get off to a good start, it's difficult to find a stroke there. Probably the toughest place in the world to do it.
"So yeah, I mean, it does. It depends on how you putt. But he's a superb putter on any speed of greens. And if he plays well, I find it very difficult to imagine anyone beating him there. When he plays well, the game looks different. It looks like Michelangelo might have designed it for him.
"He's a spectacular creature to watch."
As for any fears that McIlroy might somehow burn himself out by playing five of the next six events, Feherty joked: "He's 26 with a G5. So I wouldn't worry about the burnout to be honest with you. And ever since he unraveled on the back nine there at Augusta, was it 2011? People were worried it might affect his whole career. He goes out and wins the next two by eight shots. He'll be the perennial favorite, one of them, going into the first major of the year. He's such a wonderful player."
Beginning with next week's Honda Classic, Golf Channel and NBC will air six consecutive PGA TOUR tournament weeks leading up to the Masters, including the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Valspar Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, WGC-Dell Match Play, Puerto Rico Open and the Shell Houston Open.