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Rory McIlroy sizing up his plan of attack at Masters in Augusta

By Kevin Garside

Published 05/04/2016

Having a look: Rory McIlroy during his practice at Augusta
Having a look: Rory McIlroy during his practice at Augusta

Monday at Augusta is arguably one of the finest days to be had in golf, a day when everything is possible, when the sun shines for you, when the walk up the 18th fairway is always a celebration and the anxiety that competition brings is an examination for another afternoon.

On the range golfers tinker with their actions seeking the necessary tweak for the perfect shot. Out on the course they stroll with the yardage book, making notes, mapping greens, talking shop. And when the climate gods co-operate there is no terrain in sport quite so blessed.

Perhaps only the Monaco Grand Prix in all of sport manages to harness the environs so dramatically.

Even the players bask in the horticultural splendour that surrounds them, great swathes of emerald green rising and falling through Georgia pines, and all of it embroidered with vivid colour born of magnolia and dogwood.

From the high point beside the first tee the ground falls away more than 100 feet down to Amen corner and Rae's Creek. The heavy dew that clung to verdant walkways when the gates opened at 7.30am had burned away by the time World No.3 Rory McIlroy put a tee in the ground an hour or so before lunch.

McIlroy was out in the company of Chris Wood, a 28-year-old Bristolian making his second appearance at this event. It was effectively a clinic with McIlroy drawing the line of putts with his hands, demonstrating how the ball behaves in a way that defies the evidence supplied by the eyes.

In the four holes I observed, McIlroy knocked in birdies from three feet at the third and the fifth holes, the latter one of the hardest pins to attack so small is the landing area. Wood was in position off the tee, but so many are. This tournament, more than any other Major, is a second-shot event - and if you can't seek out the pin, know where to miss, as Lee Westwood explained on the practice range to Masters TV.

"You don't want to be in a position where you ask yourself, 'how do I get up and down from here?', that comes with experience," he said.

One of the positions you don't want to be in is the bunker at the back of the fifth that Wood found. From his viewpoint his approach would have looked all over the flag, but was half a club too much. The bunker shot was tidy but not one he would want on Thursday.

McIlroy's coach, Michael Bannon, was in the gallery nodding approvingly at the suggestion that his charge looked in fine fettle. He said: "Oh, yes, he's in good form, been working very hard."

That is about as much as anybody has chiselled from the Irishman, who has become expert at blending into a crowd.

No chance of that for McIlroy. On he went to the sixth, sending a tee shot into the bank through the green, followed by a Mulligan to five feet.

There will be no second chances from Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph

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