AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy, a Masters Green Jacket away from joining the exclusive career grand slam club, said he has added a powerful tool to his arsenal at Augusta National - patience.
McIlroy calmed himself down after a see-saw start to his second round on a blustery day within the Cathedral of Pines and carved out a one-under-par 71 that put him in contention at four-under at the halfway mark of the year’s first major.
“Being up there around the lead going into the weekend, it’s a good position to be in,” the Northern Irishman told reporters.
McIlroy, winner of the 2011 U.S. Open, 2014 British Open and a pair of U.S. PGA Championships, began the day three shots off the pace at three-under and bogeyed the first, birdied the next two, and bogeyed the fourth and sixth.
“After that, I just said to (caddie) Harry (Diamond), ‘let’s just try and hit fairways and greens here, and if we do that, we’re going to be OK’,” he told reporters.
The world number seven birdied the 13th and 14th to go along with 11 pars to set himself up for the weekend.
The 28-year-old McIlroy said he has adopted a different view of how to succeed at Augusta. “It’s take your pars, and you try and take advantage of the par-5s. If you do that every time around here, you’re going to be pretty good.”
McIlroy was more than pretty good in 2011 when he led after each of the first three rounds and carried a four-stroke lead into the final round.
A wild left tee shot led to a triple-bogey seven at the 10th that sent him into a spiral. He ended up posting a final-round 80 as Charl Schwartzel of South Africa claimed victory.
Asked about the difference in approach in the 2018 version of McIlroy, the Northern Irishman said: “Stay patient. Keep your putts on the high side of the hole. Hope for the best.”
McIlroy said he learned to embrace patience through experience.
“Just with the amount of times that I’ve been in contention or around the lead. 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.
“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, you’re still there around the lead.
McIlroy said he had the wrong idea when he started out.
“I thought all these guys birdied every hole and you just had to hit unbelievable shot after unbelievable shot. It’s not quite like that,” he said.
“You know, 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.”
Two more rounds of that sort of patience might just land McIlroy in the grand slam club with Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar