Gary Player will be an official starter of The Masters this week but he expects Rory McIlroy to steal focus at the end of the week by winning the tournament.

The Northern Irishman will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year's final-round meltdown in Augusta. Player is in no doubt McIlroy has the mental strength to cope with the stress of the tournament this time.

"I think Rory has a little revenge in his heart for the golf course," said Player, who will join Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on Thursday morning to hit the ceremonial opening drives. "You remember last year he was playing so well and was leading and he had that collapse in the final round with an 80. The way he recovered from that upset at the US Open a couple of months later showed what maturity he has."

Loading article content

However, Player, who is also writing a blog on the tournament, expects Tiger Woods to be a threat to the Northern Irishman. "He played extremely well when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational the week before last – it's the first time I've seen him drive the ball well in a long time," he said.

"He's going to be very, very tough at Augusta. He knows the course [Woods is a four-time winner], he's confident. He's had a tough time for two years and he's very hungry.

"Can Tiger beat Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championship wins? His two years away from the game has certainly disrupted what seemed to be an inevitable progression to that record. To what degree, I don't know.

"He certainly has the ability to do it, but it would be very foolish to predict what would happen because he has got to win five more majors to pass Jack – a very difficult task.

"But he is a man with such focus and dedication and hunger, I don't see anyone else quite like that in the game of golf today."

Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since the 2008 US Open. The American underwent knee reconstruction surgery after that tournament and was out for eight months, then had more time off after becoming embroiled in a scandal that cost him his marriage to Swede Elin Nordegren. Despite those incidents he has finished fourth in his last two Masters.