Rory McIlroy's burning desire to win the Masters is well-documented. After he squandered a chance to win his first green jacket with a disappointing final-round 74 in this year's tournament, McIlroy told CNN he was disappointed in his Sunday performance but confidently stated that he will win at Augusta "sooner or later."
Speaking to the media Wednesday before the Wells Fargo Championship, his first tournament since finishing in a tie for fifth at the year's first major, McIlroy outlined just how upset he was after failing to pressure eventual champion Patrick Reed.
"It was just the quiet moments when you're staring off into the distance and thinking about a certain shot or a certain putt," the four-time major champion said. "So it got to the point where I needed to see a bit of daylight and start to do my normal things.
"Probably took me a week to get over it. I went back home and decompressed, binge-watched a couple of shows, read a couple of books, drank a few bottles of wine.
"I was trying to immerse myself in anything but golf at that moment. It got to point where Erica had to drag me out of the house and say: 'We are going to do something.'"
It was what he said next, however, that raised a few eyebrows.
"The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I'm comfortable saying that," McIlroy said. "I don't care about the U.S. Open or the Open Championship, it is the biggest golf tournament in the world, the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype, everything is at Augusta.
"For me it's the most special tournament that we play, and it's the one everyone desperately wants to win, but even if I was going for my first major, it's still tough to win."
There are a few valid takeaways from that comment: McIlroy certainly didn't mean he doesn't care about winning the U.S. Open or the British Open. He was just making it clear that he's not forgetting about the U.S. Open or the British Open when formulating his arbitrary scale. The Masters is just that far ahead for him, and, perhaps more interestingly, "everyone."
McIlroy isn't a loner by any stretch; by all accounts, he's a well-liked player, particularly by his European Ryder Cup teammates. It is thus reasonable to assume that he is not completely out of touch with the sentiments of other Tour players. So we have to lend some credence to his suggestion that the Masters is "the one everyone desperately wants to win." (Though "the one" does not necessarily mean "the only one.") Perhaps the Masters has distanced itself from the other majors among those closest to the action: the players.
One place where the Masters' lead on the other three majors is undeniable is American television ratings. In 2017, the Masters' U.S. ratings more than doubled those of any other major. Tiger Woods is still the biggest explanatory variable when it comes to golf's broader appeal in America, but he did not play in any of the four majors in 2017. His absence theoretically created a level playing field for the majors in terms of interest, and Augusta pulled ahead big time. Make of that what you will.
Perhaps it's the familiar, picturesque golf course—the Masters is the lone major that doesn't change its venue year-to-year, so fans and players alike have memories of magical moments on virtually every hole. Or maybe it's the fact that the Masters is the first major of the year and comes in early spring, when viewers around the country are watching snow begin to melt and itching to get out on the course. Whatever the reason, it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny that the Masters has emerged as golf's signature event.