US Masters 2017: Rory's return was full of promise

Back in the swing - Rory McIlory showed promising signs on his return from injury
Back in the swing - Rory McIlory showed promising signs on his return from injury

Rory McIlroy stirred himself up all sorts of trouble when he played with Donald Trump, but Ralph Ellis says his return to competitive golf was far more reassuring.

"McIlory is 10.09/1 to be the winner at Augusta. Named just behind Liam Neeson on the Sunday Times Irish rich list with a personal fortune of some £82million, you suspect he’d trade a large slice of that for the Green Jacket that money can’t buy."

Outrage. As if playing a round of golf with Donald Trump wasn't bad enough, now Rory McIlroy has agreed to partner Ryan Giggs in the BMW Pro-Am at Wentworth later this year.

I mean, Rory's well known to be a Manchester United fan but now he's willing to team up with the former assistant manager who walked out because he wouldn't have a role to play under Jose Mourinho. What does that say about Rory's contempt for the Special One?

It's enough to send Twitter into meltdown, surely, and leave Rory having to pen another of those apologetic notes like he did for playing with the President of the USA!

I'm joking, of course, but it does rather underline the nonsense that's surrounded McIlroy in the last few weeks when all that should count is whether he's getting his own golf game up to scratch again.

We're now less than a month away from the Masters, the tournament that really matters to Rory, and the question is whether after 44 days out with a rib injury he can recover his best form in time to contend. The first signs are promising.

He is 10.09/1 to be the winner at Augusta, trailing favourite Jordan Spieth 7.613/2 and world number one Dustin Johnson 8.88/1.

The 27-year-old was named this weekend just behind Liam Neeson on the Sunday Times Irish rich list with a personal fortune of some £82million, but you suspect he'd trade a large slice of that for the Green Jacket that money can't buy.

How ironic that six years after his infamous meltdown the Masters is the title he still needs for a career Grand Slam. It seemed back then it was the one his game was most suited to, the tournament he was certain to win, yet it has been elusive ever since.

That's why his return to golf in the WGC-Mexico was actually full of encouraging signs, even if a final day 71 was disappointing. Having led the tournament by two shots going into the weekend you wanted more from him (and come to that he wanted more from himself).

But while he failed to find the final round that might have knocked Johnson off the number one slot, there were good things about his game for a player who must have been rusty after such a long spell out of competitive golf.

He ranked second from tee-to green across the tournament, which suggests his overall game is in good order but was let down by his putter. He took 30 putts in his final round - so it doesn't take much imagination to think if he'd holed a few of them he might have found the four shots he needed to have matched Johnson's winning score.

He has two tournaments now before Augusta. The Arnold Palmer Invitational next week will be followed by the WGC Matchplay in Austin Texas on March 22.

That should give him every chance to tune up his putter by the time he arrives in Augusta so we can all get back to being outraged about his politics and his football club!

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