Phenomenal McIlroy still improving, says Masters rival Scott

NORTHERN Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is now an even more formidable contender for golf’s top prizes than when he won the US Open last year, according to Masters runner-up Adam Scott.

McIlroy threatened to justify his teenage promise and claim his first Major at Augusta 12 months ago, only to succumb to the occasion and squander a four-shot lead on the final day.

Rather than suffer prolonged self-doubt, the young Ulsterman banished any concerns over his nerve by romping to an eight-stroke triumph at Congressional Country Club two months later.

McIlroy will tee off at the Masters tomorrow as one of the favourites, and Scott, who finished joint-second behind winner Charl Schwartzel, believes the 22-year-old is still improving.

“He handled that better than anyone else could have probably – fantastic,” said Scott. “He’s great. He bounced back and won the US Open and he’s become a better player since then. I mean, Rory is a phenomenon – really.”

If McIlroy was hoping to avoid reminders of his final-round meltdown last year then the draw for the first two days has not been kind.

He will play alongside Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, as he did when shooting that infamous 80, and another big hitter, American Bubba Watson, in the penultimate group.

Four-time winner Tiger Woods, who last week won his first PGA Tour title for more than two years, plays in an early group that also includes Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.

World No1 Luke Donald is joined by Ryder Cup colleague Francesco Molinari, of Italy, and American Nick Watney, while fellow Englishman Lee Westwood bids for his first Major alongside 2000 champion Vijay Singh and former US Open winner Jim Furyk.