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The Masters: Can pre-tournament focus on Tiger Woods work in Rory McIlroy's favour at Augusta?

McIlroy is looking for his first major victory since 2014, which would see him become the sixth golfer to complete the career Grand Slam; Woods returns to major action for the first time since November 2020 - watch throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf

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Rory Mcilroy said Tiger Woods' return to The Masters has made preparation for others easier as there is less attention on them and also touched on his chase for the Grand Slam over the years

Could the pre-tournament focus on Tiger Woods help Rory McIlroy’s Grand Slam chances? Who will impress at Augusta National? Butch Harmon looks ahead to the opening men’s major of the year…

The interesting thing about this year's event is that it's hard to pick a favourite. Most of the world's top 10 haven't won a tournament so far this year. It's a very wide-open Masters for a change.

You look at Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, who both haven't won. Scottie Scheffler has won three times in the past couple of months and Cameron Smith won The Players, but the majority of the others in the top 10 haven't even won anything yet.

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McIlroy says that playing a negative, less aggressive game on Sunday is a smart game plan as he believes it is important to stay disciplined in the first 54 holes

If we had £100 on who we could guarantee who was going to win, I don't think we could come up with one. In the past, it wouldn't have been that hard to pick up, because you look at so many guys who have been successful there before.

Just look at some of the guys that aren't playing this week: You've got Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and then you've Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar, who are guys that have always been up in contention but aren't even in the event this year!

This is a very unusual Masters and I think it's going to be exciting.

The Masters - Live

McIlroy going under the radar?

The one we should be talking about is Rory McIlroy, who has the chance to complete the career Grand Slam. I actually think, because of the way the Tiger situation has dominated in the lead-up to this week and the fact there isn't a true favourite coming in, it could work in McIlroy's favour.

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A little bit of the heat will be off McIlroy, although he will still be talked about a lot as people will want to see it happen. He has had a little bit of a pass this year, in terms of the build-up and how much people are pushing him, but he still needs to go out and compete.

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Woods and McIlroy share a conversation as they both practice at Augusta ahead of this week's Masters

We all know McIlroy's game is built for Augusta, as he's a high-ball hitter and a decent driver of the ball. Two things you have to do well at Augusta to win is to drive the ball well and be a good putter, with McIlroy's putting currently better than we've seen in a long time.

I like McIlroy's chances, but the question you have to wonder is whether there is scar tissue and whether there is something at the back of his mind about the Masters. Some of the superstars haven't played up to their superstar status and maybe that would give him slightly more hope.

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Woods announces his intention to play at The Masters this week says he believes he can win at Augusta

It takes a very strong-built person to handle the pressure that those at the upper echelons of golf have to go with. I would love to see Rory McIlroy win The Masters, as he deserves to win the Grand Slam and is one of the great players we've had in our game over the past 30 or 40 years.

Another new Masters winner?

Scheffler has the best form going into the event and it puts a lot of pressure on him, as he has never been in this position and never had to deal with the media pressure of being world No 1.

How is he going to handle it? This is going to be a big week for him, because he's going to be the No 1 guy other than the Tiger Woods story in the press room.

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World No 1 Scottie Scheffler says the presence of Woods at Augusta is allowing him to 'fly under the radar' at The Masters

A month ago all we would have probably been talking about is Jon Rahm coming into The Masters as pre-tournament favourite, but surprisingly he hasn't won an event yet this year. That tells us of the quality of the field in these events and how good these young players are.

This year on the PGA Tour, just about every winner has been in their 20s, so these kids are coming and playing good. There's definitely a changing of the guard in golf, no doubt about that, but is there going to be a changing of the guard this year at Augusta National? There's every chance…

Watch The Masters throughout the week exclusively live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday with Featured Groups from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf.

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