x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

McIlroy insists he is finding form again

If Rory McIlroy wants to become the youngest Masters champion in history - a record held by Tiger Woods, of course - he has to do it this week.

If Rory McIlroy wants to become the youngest Masters champion in history - a record held by Tiger Woods, of course - he has to do it this week. Northern Ireland's world No 11 turns 21 in four weeks and come next April will be eight months older than Woods was when he landed the title in 1997. The odds on McIlroy donning a green jacket on Sunday have been getting longer and longer with some poor recent results, but he believes he is putting his game back together - and there is no more inspirational stage than Augusta National.

"I've made a lot of progress in the last week," said McIlroy, whose thoughts were turning to The Masters long before he missed the halfway cut in the Houston Open last Friday. "I feel I'm now playing well enough to be on contention. I feel like the shots are there again. I'm hitting a lot of fairways and my distance is up again. "I'm certainly moving in the right direction. My confidence wasn't great a month ago, but it's probably back close to seven or eight. And I love this golf course.

"For any golfer who plays at a decent level this is a course they want to play. "I feel I know it pretty well and feel comfortable with the shots you have to have round here. "But the greens are so tricky and it's just a matter of trying to get your speed right. That's probably the secret to putting well here." Meanwhile, another youngster will savour his moment in the spotlight at Augusta today.

Matteo Manassero, the Italian 16-year-old, will become the youngest player ever to play in The Masters. "I'm very honoured," said the British amateur champion, who will make his professional debut at the Italian Open next month. * PA Sport