Tuesday 21 May 2019

McIlroy in great shape as Masters second round begins

The last four times the Northern Irishman has been in the top five of a major at the end of the first round, he has gone on to win it.

Jordan Spieth led after the first round of the 2018 Masters
Jordan Spieth led after the first round of the 2018 Masters
Rory McIlroy is well placed after the first round of the Masters

By Phil Casey, Press Association Sport Golf Correspondent

The omens could hardly have been better for Rory McIlroy as he looked to strengthen his bid for the career grand slam on day two of the 82nd Masters.

McIlroy broke 70 in the first round at Augusta National for just the second time on Thursday, a three-under-par 69 leaving the four-time major winner in a share of fourth, three shots behind leader Jordan Spieth.

And the last four times McIlroy was in the top five after the first round of a major he went on to win it, the 28-year-old claiming the 2011 US Open, the US PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and the 2014 Open Championship.

The biggest stumbling block between McIlroy joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four majors was unsurprisingly Spieth, whose opening 66 means he has amazingly led or shared the lead after nine of his 17 rounds at Augusta.

Spieth led after the third round in 2014, from start to finish in 2015 and for 54 holes in defence of his title, although he did then blow a five-shot lead with nine holes to play as Danny Willett took full advantage with a closing 67.

“Jordan had a pretty strong finish but this is my best start in a few
years,” said McIlroy, who shot an opening 65 in 2011  but squandered a four-shot lead with a nightmare final round of 80.

Jordan Spieth led after the first round of the 2018 Masters

“It’s such a hard golf course to play catch-up on. If you start to chase it around here, that’s when you start to make mistakes. But to be right up there and have the ability to stay patient, because of the position I’m in, that’s a nice luxury I have over the next few days.

“I drove it well. Everything was really solid. And if I can continue to play
like that over the next three days, I’ll be pretty close.”

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