AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – Here is the anomaly of Rory McIlroy and the Masters:
He has the second-lowest career scoring average at Augusta National among players who have played 25 to 49 tournament rounds (71.82), but the Masters remains the one major championship McIlroy has not won.
His best chance came in 2011 when he led by four strokes entering the final round only to shoot 80 on Sunday and finish T15. He has had good stretches since then including shooting 10-under par on the weekend in 2015, but McIlroy has been forced to overcome relatively slow starts.
McIlroy has not broken 70 in the first two rounds since he shot 69 in the second round in 2012, a trend he hopes to change this year.
“Sometimes I feel like I’ve given the golf course a little too much respect and that goes back to … being a slow starter,” he said. “Sometimes you plod away and you make your pars and you think you’re doing okay but you look at the board and you might be seven or eight back, someone’s off to a hot start.
“Last year I shot 72 in that real windy first day and Charley Hoffman had shot 65. I thought I played pretty well but all of a sudden you’re seven back with three rounds to go. So you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself to start off fast, but you want to be there or thereabouts after the first couple of days.
“I’ve gotten in my way here before but I think because I’m a little more comfortable on the golf course and comfortable in my game, I don’t think that will happen this week.”
McIlroy is one of three active players with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam (Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth are the others) but he is the only one who can do it with a Masters victory. If you’re into numbers, McIlroy is playing his 10th Masters this year, the same number when Ben Hogan and Sam Snead won their first green jacket. He’s also 28 years old, the age Arnold Palmer won when he picked up his first Masters.
After an inconsistent start to his 2018 PGA Tour season, McIlroy was brilliant in winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago, sending him to Augusta with good vibes.
“I feel like I’ve been here long enough and I’ve played enough rounds around here to know how to play this golf course well and well enough to win,” McIlroy said.
“I’ve never come in here thinking I’ve served my time and this is my turn because it’s never your turn. You have to go out and get it. It’s not going to fall into your lap. You have to go out and win the Masters and you have to go out and earn it. I’m here this week to earn it all.”