Rory McIlroy says he's "clinging on" – but Tom Watson thinks he's going to win the Masters

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No European has won the Masters since Jose Maria Olazabal way back in 1999. Should Rory McIlroy end Europe's 17-year wait for a green jacket, he'll also complete the career grand slam, adding the Masters to his US Open, Open Championship, and pair of PGA Championship titles.

Two-time Masters champ Tom Watson knows what it's like to be one major short of a grand slam – his eight majors are missing a PGA Championship to complete the quartet – but he's backing McIlroy to finish the job this week.

"He's the guy," said Watson, when asked for his tip for the 2016 Masters. "He's my pick this week. He's my pick. He's just got a tremendous talent. He hits the ball high. I think it's always been an advantage to hit the ball high on this golf course."

McIlroy himself, meanwhile, without a win since November, says he's worried about being "left behind" by world number one Jason Day and world number two Jordan Spieth. 

"I'd be lying if I said those guys having success doesn't motivate me," said McIlroy. "Of course, it does. What Jordan did here last year, at the US Open, and the whole way through the summer, and what Jason Day did during the summer and this year, as well… I don't want to be left behind. I want to be a part of that conversation. I’m clinging on at the minute, but a few wins will change that. You don't want to see guys beating you. You want to be the best, so you want to go out there and win tournaments."

He's captured the flag, but can he grab the jacket?

If McIlroy is able to hold off Day, Spieth and a rich pool of top players in ominously good form to win this week, he will become just the sixth player in golf history to complete the career grand slam by winning all four majors. 

McIlroy, bidding to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods as grand slam winners, says the important thing is to get off to a good start.

"It's imperative to get off to a great start here," said the 26-year-old. "You look at a lot of Masters champions in the past, they have been right up there from the first day.  It's important to get a good 36 holes under your belt, that gives you confidence going into the weekend. That's been the thing that's held me back the last couple of years, and I am trying to change that."

McIlroy's slow start last year meant that rounds of 68 and 66 at the weekend could only propel him into fourth, six shots behind winner Spieth, who put together a pair of 70s at the weekend. 

"I played well, I finished 12‑under par," said McIlroy. "But I was three‑over after 27 holes and that’s not going to get it done."

McIlroy insists that thoughts of a grand slam will be pushed far from his mind. 

"I think part of that was having so much expectation and thinking of the grand slam when I needed just to take a step back and relax and play my own game. That start really cost me the tournament, and if I could have had those holes back, I would have a different mindset and a different disposition. I knew as soon as I finished last year that I was going to prepare differently this year."

NEXT: How has Rory McIlroy prepared for this year's Masters?