Any time I looked at the leaderboard I was pleasantly surprised I hadn't fallen two or three shots behind.
When it comes to discussing Masters favorites, there's Rory and then there's everyone else. But it also validated the upbeat and optimistic demeanor he showcased over the past few weeks, preaching continued patience in the face of Sunday fades and near-misses that had begun to blur together.
Dustin Johnson at +900 (9/1), Justin Rose at +1200 (12/1), Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas all at +1400 (14/1), Tiger Woods and Bryson Dechambeau both at +1600 (16/1) follow in current Masters odds. After shooting 67-65 to share the midway lead with Tommy Fleetwood, McIlroy closed with a pair of 70s to earn his 15th career PGA Tour victory. After all, this is a guy who rattled off five worldwide wins in 2012 and bagged a pair of majors two years later.
So with McIlroy approaching his 30th birthday, and with only one victory over his previous 50 tournaments worldwide, the critics took notice. He had four majors - missing only a green jacket - at age 25. An up-and-down round had him a stroke behind red-hot Jim Furyk after the 14, and he seemed to make his standing worse with an errant tee shot. In so doing, he has found peace off the course that has translated into success on it.
"If I didn't know the history of the game and I wasn't such a fan it would work in my favor". "The more times that we can talk about it, the more eyeballs that we get on the game of golf, then that's good, that's a good thing".
"I think, maturity", says McIlroy of a new attitude. "When you reflect on the week, you have to reflect on the 72 holes and not just the last two holes you played, and every time I reflected on the 72 I've played, I've been pretty happy". The 38-year-old has placed in the Top 25 for the past eight years at Augusta National including second-place finishes in 2017 and 2015.
That path will lead down Magnolia Lane in less than a month, a rocky road fraught with obstacles for McIlroy in years past.
That was the first of four unsuccessful attempts to round out the elusive final leg of the career Grand Slam. It will take him to even greater heights!
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RORY McILROY celebrated St Patrick's Day with his first victory for more than a year in a thrilling climax to the Players Championship at Sawgrass yesterday. "And I had to grind it out down the stretch, as well, which I'll take a lot from". "It was going to happen". Sunday's win was not him at his imperious best, but showed us the dogged side to his character.
McIlroy called it "the best shot of the day, by far", and it settled 15 feet behind the hole for a birdie to tie. I love playing out here.
But McIlroy is assuredly a member of the minority who would balk, imbued with enough confidence to want to give it a shot in the majors and see what his talents can produce.
He insists he has not been as frustrated by the year long winless spell that has just ended as many people would expect.
"I feel like I've managed the first six tournaments of the year very well, even with some noise around me, whether 'he can't close, he can't play on Sundays, ' blah, blah, blah", McIlroy said.
"I kept telling myself on the way to the 17th tee, just make three more good swings", he said.
That is, as long as he opts for a one-story rental house during Masters week.
"I'm just really proud of myself the way I played the last few holes", he said.