Golf

Rory McIlroy ready to fill Tiger Woods void at the Masters

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Rory McIlroy has insisted he is ready to fill the gaping void left by an injured Tiger Woods when the year's first major kicks off at Augusta National next week. 

Woods, 38, announced on Tuesday that he would miss the Masters for the first time since 1994 after he underwent successful surgery on a pinched nerve in his lower back, an injury he sustained during the final round of this year's Honda Classic, forcing him to withdraw with just five holes of the tournament left to play. 

As has always been the case with the 14-time major winner since his extraordinary, record-breaking 12-shot victory on his professional Masters debut in 1997, whenever he's absent from a PGA Tour event, the interest around the world is diminished slightly. 

However, after McIlroy announced himself as golf's next superstar with an eight-shot victory in the 2011 US Open before following it up with his second major win - by the same distance - at the 2012 USPGA Championship at Kiawah Island, he claims he is now ready to step into Woods's shoes. 

"Golf's a funny place at the minute. You are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past like Tiger, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson," he told BBC Sport. 

"I'd like to establish myself as that sort of player. Someone's got to step up, so I'm trying to be that person and it would be a great place to start next week."

Ever since he became the youngest two-time major winner - beating a record set by his good friend Woods - the expectation on McIlroy has skyrocketed, an expectation he's not always been able to manage. 

Last season was one to forget for the McIlroy, after an equipment change as part of his multi-million pound sponsorship with Nike coupled with two legal battles against his former management company and Oakley took their toll on the course. 

His solitary victory in the 2013 season came at the Australian Open, where he showed he was nearing a return to top form, and his runner-up finish at this year's Honda Classic has reaffirmed that. 

Now, he will head to Augusta - scene of his most uncomfortable appearance on a golf course to date after he capitulated to a final-round 80 despite heading into the Sunday of 2011 with a four-shot lead - aiming to finally put that ghost to bed. 

As for Woods, the 24-year-old is confident the current world number one has made the right decision to have surgery: "It seems like his lower back has been maybe working a little harder than it should have, to compensate for the surgeries he's had in his lower body. 

"It's sort of caught up with him, so I think surgery is a good thing and he'll rehab it the right way. He's had the best advice in the world, so he will only come back when he's ready. 

"Obviously everyone wishes him a speedy recovery, and hopefully he gets back very soon because golf is better with Tiger Woods playing." 

The Holywood-born golfer will tee it up at this week's Shell Houston Open looking for his first win this season as he begins his final preparations for arguably the most exciting tournament on the golfing calendar. 

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Topics:
Rory McIlroy
US Masters
Golf

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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