AUGUSTA, Ga.: If Rory McIlroy is fairly confident of one day winning the Masters and completing the career grand slam, he has also been around the block often enough to know that nothing is guaranteed in golf or much else for that matter.
McIlroy is all too aware that Greg Norman and Ernie Els, among others, never took the final step to a Green Jacket for all the times they contended at Augusta National.
Nine long years have passed since McIlroy frittered away a four-shot final round lead at the tournament and he has competed in five Masters since first being afforded the chance to complete the career grand slam here.
With the 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 and 2014 PGA Championship and 2014 British Open under his belt, McIlroy this week gets another chance to become the sixth player to complete the modern grand slam. So does he have a date with destiny?
"There are a lot of great people that have played this game that have never won a Green Jacket," the 31-year-old said at a news conference on Tuesday.
"It's not a foregone conclusion, and I know that. I have to go out and earn it. I think nowadays, with how many great players there are, I need to play my best golf to have a chance.
"Nothing's given in this game."
Pity for McIlroy then that the Masters was not played on schedule in April this year, postponed for seven months due to the novel coronavirus.
The Northern Irishman was playing some of his best golf in March when the lockdown started, having returned to the world number one ranking, but has been relatively ordinary by his own lofty standards since the restart.
"After we came back out of the lockdown, there's been really good stuff in there, but there's been some lacklustre stuff, too, lapses of concentration," he said.
"You know, sometimes (it feels) like you're out there and it doesn't really count. It's been an adjustment to get used to, but we've been in it now for a few months, and feel like I've maybe (taken) a little longer to adjust than some people.
"They are still handing out trophies at the end of every week, so you may as well try and play as hard as possible for them."
McIlroy fielded an inevitable question on his thoughts about the new big hitter on the block, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, whose unprecedented power is all the talk in golf circles.
"If trophies were handed out just for how far you hit it and how much ball speed you have, then I'd be worried," said McIlroy. "But there's still a lot of different aspects that you need to master in this game."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)