McIlroy heads to Augusta with a spring in his step

Thu Apr 3, 2014 3:44pm EDT
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By Tony Jimenez

LONDON (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy has made such encouraging progress since the struggles of last season that he can look ahead to next week's Masters with genuine hope of finally exorcising the demons of Augusta 2011.

Three years ago the mop-haired youngster from Northern Ireland took the Masters by storm, charging into a four-shot lead with one round to go.

However, the sheer weight of expectation on the European Tour's new Golden Boy seemed to catch up with him over the final 18 holes as he ballooned to an 80 to finish down the field in a share of 15th position.

McIlroy bounced back in style by winning the very next major on the calendar, the 2011 U.S. Open, before adding the U.S. PGA Championship title during a spectacular 2012 season that ended with him winning the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

He then suffered the first real extended hiccup of his fledgling career last year, battling a series of problems on and off the course, but his only victory of 2013 at the Australian Open in December seemed to re-invigorate the 24-year-old.

It was a special win for McIlroy in several senses, not least because he birdied the final hole to snatch the crown from Masters champion and home favorite Adam Scott with the last stroke of the tournament.

This season the Northern Irishman has been in title contention in five of the six strokeplay events he has entered and he looks to have his mojo back for good.

"The run of form I've been on validates what I've been working on and what I've been trying to do with my golf game," McIlroy said last month.   Continued...

Mar 8, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; ?Rory McIlroy tees off from the 5th hole during the third round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship golf tournament at TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports