Patience a virtue for McIlroy in Masters sunshine
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Three years after suffering a final-round meltdown at the Masters, Rory McIlroy got back into contention for the year's opening major with an impressive display of patience and grinding golf on Thursday.
On a sun-baked Augusta National layout where danger lurked at every corner because of swirling winds and quickening greens, the Northern Irishman eked out a one-under-par 71 to sit three strokes off the first-round lead.
Though he bogeyed the par-four last after three-putting from the lower tier of the green, the 24-year-old double major winner was delighted to end a difficult day for scoring under par.
"They set the course up very difficult. Everyone needed to stay patient today. You had chances on the par-fives, and there were some tougher holes early that you could maybe take advantage of," McIlroy told reporters after mixing four birdies with three bogeys.
"But apart from that, the greens were getting firm on the back nine, the pin positions were difficult, you just really had to be wary of them. Anything in red numbers today was good."
The Northern Irishman, who squandered a four-shot overnight lead with a closing 80 at the 2011 Masters to tumble back into a tie for 15th, was overall happy with the quality of his approach shots into Augusta National's severely sloping greens.
"For the most part, I felt like I put my ball in the positions they needed to be in," former world number one McIlroy said. "It was just one of those days where it was tough to get it close to the hole.
"The greens are fast already. By Sunday they're going to be pretty dicey. I think every year you play practice rounds here, then there's just a little extra fire in the course come Thursday. Continued...