Rory McIlroy is confident he can try on the green jacket in Butler’s cabin at the close of the Masters tournament this weekend.
But he will readily accept the luck of the Irish when he continues his quest for the most famous green jacket in the world at Augusta today.
A proud and confident McIlroy goes into the second round of the US Masters top of the leaderboard, level on seven under par with the Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and two shots clear of Korean duo YE Yang and KJ Choi.
The 21-year-old McIlroy, playing in his third Masters, shot a sparkling 65 on Thursday to set the early pace at Augusta and establish a lead that lasted all day until Quiros matched him in the final grouping of the opening round.
The flawless display by McIlroy brought back memories of his opening 63 at last year’s British Open at St Andrews – but the young man from Bangor in County Down will be keeping his fingers crossed that his second round 80 in that tournament isn’t repeated today.
It shouldn’t be if McIlroy’s brilliance amongst the azaleas on Thursday can be maintained for the second round of the first Major of the year.
“I wouldn’t say it was as spectacular as my 63 at St. Andrews, but it was very solid from start to finish,” said McIlroy as the world acclaimed his brilliance.
“I think what happened at St. Andrews will be a massive help to me. Looking back, it was a valuable lesson in my development.
“At the time, it was very disappointing but looking back, it was probably very valuable in my progression as a golfer.
“I hope it will help me. I have that experience to draw on, especially being in a similar position to last year at St. Andrews.
“I feel like I’m better prepared to tee off in the second round of a major with the lead.
“It’s possible I can go out and shoot another 65, but I know it’s also very likely that I’m not going to do that.
I’m going to have to stick in there, to grind it out and that’s something I feel I’ve learned to do since St Andrews.”
On a day that saw Padraig Harrington struggle with a neck injury before signing for a disappointing 77 and Graeme McDowell finish with a 74, McIlroy could do no wrong.
He returned seven birdies in his seven under par round - at the second, where he sensibly laid-up short of the green and got up and down; the third (holing from four feet), fourth (from 20 feet), ninth (10 feet), 11th (eighth feet), 14th (four feet) and 15th (two putts).
“It sounds easy, but it wasn’t,” claimed McIlroy. “This is my ninth Major. I’ve played a Ryder Cup and I’ve had three top-threes in majors.
“That experience helps. I trusted everything. I trusted where I wanted to hit the ball. That’s the key around here.
“With some of these pins, you can get tentative and try to guide it in there. You just have to pick your targets and trust your swing. I was very happy with the way I did that.
“I would take 65 all day long, but it could have been lower. It’s a great start to the tournament. I felt that my game has been good all season. I feel very comfortable with my game and it was nice to see a few putts drop in and hopefully I can build on it.
“I’m still relatively inexperienced but I feel as if I’m a pretty quick learner. I mean, there’s no substitute for experience, especially in major championships, and I still feel as if I have a lot of learning to do.”
His plan for the next three rounds is a simple one. “Just to be patient, to realize that you don’t need to play spectacular golf for 72 holes to win,” said the young Ulsterman.
“You just have to hang in there, and grind it out and stay patient.”
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