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NEWS: With Relaxed Mindset, McIlroy Looms As Weekend Threat

Rory McIlroy (Photo: Brian Snyder, Reuters)

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – Patience, they say, is a virtue – one that Rory McIlroy is striving to exhibit as he chases the career Grand Slam.

Through two rounds at the Masters, he appears to be succeeding on that count.

After adding a Friday 71 to his opening 69 at Augusta National, McIlroy sits at 4-under par and in a good position to make a title run on the weekend.

Although disappointed by his failure to post a second straight round in the 60s, the 28-year-old Northern Irishman acknowledged satisfaction with staying below par in Friday’s conditions.

“The conditions today were a little more difficult than they were yesterday,” he said. “The breeze was up a little bit. I felt like the pin positions were a little tougher. It was tough to get it close to some of those pins.”  

McIlroy won four majors by age 25, but it’s going on four years since he won his last, the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla. Since then, his best chance to win the Masters and thereby complete the career Grand Slam came in 2016, when paired with Jordan Spieth in the last twosome on Saturday he shot himself out of contention with an ugly 77.

With experience, McIlroy has come to realize the value of patience around Augusta National.

“I think just with the amount of times that I’ve been in contention or around the lead or whether it be a regular PGA Tour event or a major or whatever it is, every experience that you have in that arena in those situations, you learn a little bit from it each time,” he said. “And for me, I don’t have to go out there and make a birdie on every hole, especially not on this golf course, and in these conditions, pars are OK. Sometimes pars might be a little bit boring and you might feel as if you want to get a little bit more out of your round, but as you look up the leaderboard and you’re still there around the lead, that’s taken awhile for me to adjust to.

“I think whenever I first came out here on Tour, I thought all these guys birdied every hole and you just had to hit unbelievable shot after unbelievable shot and hole the putt afterwards. It’s not quite like that.

“Golf is a game of making your misses not that bad and taking advantage of your good shots. So far this week, I’ve been able to do that.”

After an opening bogey Friday, McIlroy jump-started his round with birdies at the par-5 second, where he holed a big right-to-left breaker from 20 feet (see video below), and the par-4 third, where he pitched to within 3 feet. He gave those strokes back with bogeys at Nos. 4 and 6 but saved par after hitting his approach into the gallery on No. 7 and kept his round together with subsequent par saves at Nos. 10 and 11.

WATCH: McIlroy’s Curling Birdie Putt at No. 2

WATCH: McIlroy’s Approach Leads to Birdie at No. 3

“The par putt on 7 today, the par putt on 10, the par putt on 11, those are huge putts,” he said. “They are bigger than some of the birdie putts because that just keeps you going and keeps you in the right frame of mind.”

McIlroy took his round back into the red with birdies at the par-5 13th, where he got up and down from the swale behind the green, and No. 14, where he drained a 25-footer after an approach from the right rough.

Although he missed relatively short birdie attempts at 17 and 18, McIlroy looms as a substantial threat to win, in large part because of his outlook.

“I feel relaxed,” he said. “I feel good. I’m constantly having a conversation with myself about staying in the present and just one shot at a time and all the cliché stuff that you hear about. But it’s true. That’s all I’m doing. I’m trying to get up there and hit the best shot that I can, and after that, I’ll go about what’s the best way to hit the next shot and the putt. … I feel like I don’t have to swing my best to play my best golf, but if I can think the way I’m thinking right now and stay in that mindset, that’s when I’ve been able to produce my best results.”


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