2018 Masters: More patient Rory McIlroy feels mentally prepared to win at Augusta National

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Two holes into the second round of the Masters he led by two after 18 holes, Jordan Spieth found himself looking up at Rory McIlroy who shared the lead at 4 under after birdies at Nos. 2 and 3. Life comes at you fast at Augusta National. McIlroy and Spieth know that better than anyone.

The Ulsterman went on to shoot a 1-over 37 on the front nine, but on a day when the ground was baking and the scores were rising, McIlroy hung around — and hung around some in addition. He then took advantage of a birdie opportunity at No. 13 and poured in a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 14 to get back to 4 under. He missed makable birdie putts on Nos. 17 and 18, but chipped in for easy pars and a 1-under 71 and a 4-under 140 total.

He ties his second-best 36-hole score ever here.

The four-time major winner is likely to be in the top five at the end of the day and may be poised for the best swing ever at a career Grand Slam. He may have to contend with either cold, windy, wet weather on Saturday or 36 holes of play on Sunday. So it won’t be easy, but the way McIlroy has strung together the first 36 has been impressive.

He has battled difficult conditions and speed issues on several holes and scored more than anyone in the first two rounds. He’s resisted the urge to try to hit 10 shots on one swing – not exactly a life marker – and to follow him around Augusta is to watch more patient, calmer golf. what we have seen in recent years.

“Experience,” McIlroy said when asked what makes him more patient than before. “I think just with the amount of times I’ve been in or around the lead … whether it’s a regular PGA Tour event or a main event or whatever it is. All the experience you have in that area in those situations, you learn a little bit from it every time.

“I don’t need to go out there and make birdies on every hole, especially not on this golf course. In these conditions, pars are fine. Sometimes pars can be be a bit boring, and you might feel like you want to. but while you look up the leaderboard, and you’re still there around the helm…

“When I first came out here on Tour, I thought all these guys were eating every hole and you just hit unbelievable shot after unbelievable shot and hold the putt afterwards. so bad and taking advantage of your good photos. So far this week, I can do that.”

McIlroy has played the par 5s in 5 under so far, and his short game has been terrific as well. His putts have been crisp and accurate, and his putting has been pretty good (something McIlroy needs to win another major).

The physical condition on Friday was bad. Not the weather, per se, but the slippery greens and feeling hotter than the Georgia sun. But mentally, the conditions were even tougher. All year long you hear about the scoring opportunities at Augusta and how this is a place to make eagles and birdies. The roars! they say. There were none on Friday. It was just grinding, hard pars and a couple of birdie attempts on the par 5s. That’s it.

That’s why what McIlroy did in the first two rounds was so impressive. With just 25 percent of the field under par at the time he finished, McIlroy took on a role that has sometimes eluded him in the past. He was a mental powerhouse over the first 36 in two extremely taxing rounds. He was patient in both the literal and figurative sense.

“It’s so difficult,” McIlroy told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “The winds should be west today, but every hole you get on it is coming from the other direction. You have to be aware of what he is doing. I’m just waiting until I feel that the wind is where it should be. be, and then I hit my shot. He is just spinning in these big, tall trees. If you get the wind right on every hole, you’ll be fine.”

McIlroy has been in this situation twice before, and it happened in completely different ways. In 2011, he led by two after going out with a 65-69 opener. He was 21 years old. Everyone knows what happened next.

“I put a lot of emphasis on what happened here in 2011,” McIlroy said earlier this week. “I feel like it made me a better player, I feel like it made me a better person. He was definitely a character builder. I don’t think I would have had the career I’ve had so far if it wasn’t for him. for that day. So I think it was very important.”

In 2016, McIlroy was 3 under after 36 holes, one back of Jordan Spieth. The 2015 camp put it up that Saturday in cold weather. Spieth went on to blow the Masters down the stretch, but he was there until the end. McIlroy was not.

“I feel relaxed,” McIlroy said Friday of his mindset heading into the weekend. “I feel good. “I always talk to myself about living in the present and just one scene at a time and all the cliche stuff you hear about it, but it’s true. You know, that’s what I do. I’m trying to get up there and hit the best shot I can, and after that, I’ll go about what’s the best way to hit the next shot and the putt.

“So that’s really what it’s been like, which … I’ve been happy with how I’ve been feeling and my thought process and where I’m at mentally, I’ve been feel really good about that. I feel like I don’t feel. I have to do my best to play my best golf, but if I can think like I’m thinking now and stay in that mindset, that’s when I got my best results.”

It has been interesting to watch a tough McIlroy fight his way around this place. Yes, he still hits drives probably better than anyone in history, and yes, his iron frame still makes grown men’s knees weak and wobbly. But it’s his mental toughness that got him through the weekend. It has also been unexpected. It’s a mental blow on Thursday and Friday that often knocks it out. Not this year, though. Even in situations that have not always been connected to his personality or his game.

Interestingly, McIlroy had as many Sundays in the 60s as he had Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays combined at Augusta. We have seen him play freely on the weekends here. That’s because you can let go a little on the weekend. Let it hang. That’s when McIlroy is at his best. His 68.0 scoring average is No. 2 on the PGA Tour this season. Now if he survives a potentially bitter Saturday, we could get a Rory on Sunday who combines a much stronger mental toughness than we’ve seen in years with one of the most amazing skills in history modern day golf.

For a jacket. And the Slam.

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