No more Masters misery for McIlroy
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits the ball during a practice round April 8, 2014 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia as they prepare for the 2014 Masters Golf Tournament - by Timothy A. Clary
The tears flowed while talking to his mother by phone the day after shooting a final-round 80 to blow a four-shot lead going into the last day of the 2011 Masters.
Two months later he famously rebounded by winning the US Open at the Congressional Club in Washington by eight strokes and he went on to to add the PGA Championship the following year at Kiawah Island.
The memory scar from 2011 is still there, but time has proved to be a powerful healer, 24-year-old McIlroy says.
"I mean, that's probably the only time I've cried over golf was that morning after in 2011," he said.
"Last year (when he struggled with his game) was nothing compared to blowing a lead in the final round of the Masters, because you never know if you're going to get that opportunity again.
"So it makes it easier these days when you have two majors in the bag. Not that you don't care as much, but it's not the end of the world. You know that you will have more opportunities, and you've taken a couple of opportunities already."
"It was a very important day in my career. It was a big learning curve for me."
McIlroy's troubles of last year, when he struggled with new equipment, business wrangles and personal problems, appear to be a thing of the past as he clocked up a win at the Australian Open in December and followed up with runner-up finishes at Abu Dhabi and the Honda Classic.
The Irishman comes into Augusta National on the back of a scorching 65 in the final round of the Houston Open.
On top of that, with world number one Tiger Woods absent through injury, Phil Mickelson also not fully fit and defending champion Adam Scott inconsistent, he has suddenly found himself installed as the betting favorite for the year's first major.
It's a role McIlroy says he relishes, although Augusta National remains a course on which he struggles to play consistently well. His best finish in five previous appearances remain the 15th place he had to settle for after his meltdown in 2011.
"I feel comfortable on the course. I'm disappointed that my best finish was only 15th. I feel like I've played better than that and haven't quite got the results," he said.
"But mind, body, equipment, it's all there. It's all there. There's no excuses.
"There's no excuses if I don't play well this week. Everything's in the right place to allow me to play well.
"So it's just a matter of managing my expectations, not getting ahead of myself, not thinking about Sunday when it's Friday afternoon.
"Just really keeping myself in the present and in the moment and trying to take it one shot at a time and hopefully those shots add up to about 270 and I walk away with a green jacket."
McIlroy will go out on Thursday with two of the rising young US stars in Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
"It's funny that they are going to be playing their first Masters and I'm playing my sixth. I feel like the veteran in the group," he said.