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Rory: I'm in Masters mood

 

By Adam McKendry

Rory McIlroy says he is relaxed and ready to challenge for the Green Jacket as he goes into the weekend on four-under par after his one-under par second round 71 at the Masters.

The 28-year old battled back from a shaky start in his first six holes and finished strongly at Augusta, keeping him right in contention behind overnight leader Patrick Reed.

Back to back birdies at 13 and 14 brought him back into the red for the second day running, and the Holywood man believes he is in the right frame of mind to attack the leaderboard on moving day, Saturday.

"I feel relaxed, I feel good," McIlroy smiled after his round. "I'm trying to get up there and hit the best shot that I can and, after that, I'll go about what's the best way to hit the next shot and the putt.

"I've been pleased with how I've felt and my thought process and where I am mentally, I've felt really good about that. I feel like I don't have to swing my best to play my best golf, but if I can think the way I'm thinking right now and stay in that mindset, that's when I've been able to produce my best results."

McIlroy kept himself in the hunt yesterday in a one-under par round, with a mixed opening six holes featuring two birdies and three bogeys making for an interesting start.

But he rallied, making key par saves at the 7th, 10th and 11th holes, allowing birdies at the 13th and 14th to keep him up at the top of the leaderboard, yet not enough to keep him entirely satisfied with his round.

Rory added: “The conditions today were a little more difficult than they were yesterday,” the Ulsterman pointed out. “The breeze was up a little bit and I felt like the pin positions were a little tougher, it was tough to get it close to some of those pins.

“I was a little disappointed walking off the 18th green. I had two good chances on 17 and 18 that I didn’t convert but, overall, 71 out there today was a pretty good score and obviously in a nice position going into the weekend.”

Certainly the way he’s performing right now would suggest things have taken a marked upturn since that win at Bay Hill last month.

McIlroy is holing crucial putts at crucial times, his approach shots are giving him much better looks at birdie and in general he looks more comfortable on the course.

“I think distance control has been a little bit better with either firmness of the greens or the wind conditions,” McIlroy admitted. “So the distance control has been good.

“But yeah, I’ve held putts that have kept momentum in the round going. The par putt on 7 today, the par putt on 10, the par putt on 11, those are huge putts. They are bigger than some of the birdie putts because that just keeps you going and keeps you in the right frame of mind.

“Those two parts of my game have been really good over the last couple days.”

Now he goes into the weekend with a very realistic chance of clinching the Grand Slam, but that’ll be a task far easier said than done, particularly with Reed looking in fantastic form and the storm clouds ready to roll in this afternoon.

McIlroy admitted: “It’s such a hard golf course to chase on. You start to go for pins and you start chasing it, that’s when you can bring in some trouble and make some mistakes.

“I’m happy with the position I’m in and, whatever weather comes our way tomorrow, I feel like I’ll be able to handle it and keep myself near the top of the leaderboard.

“It’s going to be an exciting weekend.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth labelled his play “brain-dead” after almost blowing his chances of a second Masters title.

Spieth held a two-shot overnight lead at Augusta National, but saw that disappear with a double-bogey on the opening hole of his second round and further dropped shots on the second and seventh. The three-time major winner failed to record a birdie on the front nine for the first time in his career as he struggled to the turn in 40, but fought back to shoot 74 and join Rory McIlroy in the clubhouse lead on four under par.

“The first few holes I just hit it everywhere you can’t hit it,” said Spieth, who had led or shared the lead after nine of his previous 17 rounds in the Masters.

“I got a little brain-dead to start but to still be in the tournament after two rounds, would I have taken being in this position three or four weeks ago? Absolutely. The wheels could have come off but I made a great par save on the ninth to be able to go to the back nine with some momentum.”

Spieth led from start to finish in 2015 and for 54 holes in defence of his title the following year, only to squander a five-shot lead with nine holes to play.

“I’ve taken a lot of punches on this golf course and I told Michael (Greller, his caddie) that I’m good for a double bogey or some bogeys here, so let’s make these the only ones,” the 24-year-old added.

“To not be in the lead could bode well for me, allow me to go after some pins to get some shorter looks at birdie.”

Justin Rose is banking on another special Saturday performance at the Masters after keeping his hopes of a second major title alive.

Rose carded a second round of 70 in tricky conditions at Augusta National to reach two under par.

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