AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hello everyone, and apologies for neglecting the golf blog. We're at the Masters this week, and if it's possible to over-hype an event, this might be the one. The year's first major is bursting with possibilities, since many of the best players in the world (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald) have won on the PGA Tour recently.
McIlroy took a four-shot lead into the final round last year, but struggled on the back nine and shot 80, leaving with questions about his ability to close and wondering how long it would take to get over such a crushing loss. Turns out not long at all, since he won the US Open two months later by eight shots.
Still, he'll be returning to the site of his most painful professional moment. Addressing it this morning in his pretournament press conference, McIlroy chose humor, especially when asked about the triple bogey 7 he made on No. 10, when his drive ricocheted off a tree and ended up near the club cabins well left of the fairway.
"I can't believe how close the cabins are, they are only 50 yards off the [10th] tee," McIlroy said, breaking the room up in laughter. "You know, look, it's great to be able to laugh about it now. ... Obviously the first time I played the back nine last week, there's memories that come back and memories that you probably don't want."
Much has changed since then. McIlroy won his first major, and he was recently ranked No. 1 in the world (he's currently No. 2). How he handled himself -- immediately after last year's final round, throughout the year, even today, never dodging the collapse -- has endeared himself to many golf fans. He said he comes to the Masters this year ready to win. Looking back, he can't say he was a year ago.
"I really needed to think about what I needed to do to improve mentally and in different aspects of my game to get better," McIlroy said. "I felt like I did that. I'm in a great place. I feel like my golf game is in great shape. As I said, I'm coming back here a much more experienced player and feel like a much better player than the player that came here last year. I'm very excited about the week."