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Rory McIlroy reveals 'colourful' dressing down from Augusta member that helped inspire Masters revival

McIlroy flicks switch after poor start to keep his Masters dream alive

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Taking aim: Rory McIlroy attempts to make a move at Augusta

Taking aim: Rory McIlroy attempts to make a move at Augusta

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Taking aim: Rory McIlroy attempts to make a move at Augusta

What a difference an afternoon can make. Or, in Rory McIlroy's case, just an hour.

His Masters hopes looked dead and buried after his opening round at Augusta National, which was split over Thursday evening and yesterday morning, a string of misjudged and misplayed shots culminating in a cry of "That's so bad, oh my God" after watching his tee shot on the 16th come to earth with a splash.

He eventually signed for a three-over 75.

But then, out of nowhere and with just 60 minutes between holing out on the 18th and heading back to the 10th tee, it was like McIlroy flipped a switch, and all of a sudden he was the best player on the property.

Six birdies. No bogeys. A six-under 66 in his second round - a score only matched by Patrick Cantlay, Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood - and three under for the tournament which, barring an outrageous turn of events, will have him around for the weekend.

"I just felt so good coming here," McIlroy confessed, revealing he got a "colourful" dressing down from close friend and Augusta member Jimmy Dunne as he grabbed a sandwich and headed for the range before his second round.

"I practised so well for a couple of weeks and practised so well in the practice rounds, and then the 75 sort came of out of nowhere.

"It was, 'where the hell did that come from?' But I guess I knew (the 66) was in there and I just needed to trust and commit a little bit more.

"I was maybe being a little careful and a little 'guidey' with a few shots. So I hit some shots on the range between rounds, just trying to fully release the club and I said just be a little more trusting with it and it was much better this afternoon."

Asked if he was kicking himself for his disastrous finish to his second round, he said: "Of course, I was thinking, 'get this ball up and down and play the last few holes in three or four-under' - and I did the exact opposite.

"But I turned it around nicely and shot a good one and at least gave myself a chance going into the weekend.

"The course is playing so soft and different to how it usually plays, but hopefully I got my eye in that last 18 holes. I need a couple of days pretty similar to give myself a chance."

It was remarkable how different the two rounds looked. Between them, Paul McGinley had declared that the first round was what we should expect from McIlroy - a player battling with his swing and showing no form.

How the World No.5 proved him wrong and then some.

With the quick turnaround from his first round to his second - caused by Thursday's rain delay that pushed all tee times back by three hours - perhaps it was a case he was now fully warmed up. Or maybe he just knew he had nothing to lose in round two.

Either way, the difference between the two rounds was night and day, and it wasn't just in the scoring, it was in the stats as well.

McIlroy restarted his first round from the greenside bunker on the 10th and took three shots to get down for a bogey. When he returned to the 10th, the first hole of his second round, he again took three shots, this time in an opening birdie, and from there he didn't look back.

Everything suggested progression. His greens in regulation leapt from 50% to 83%. He took 1.56 putts per green as opposed to 1.67, and didn't have a three-putt. After failing to make that sand save with his first shot of the day, McIlroy didn't have a single sand save to make the second time around.

All that added up to much improved numbers on the scorecard. Birdies at the 10th and a rare one on the 12th, taking advantage of the par-five 15th and then a bonus birdie on the 17th had him out in 32 strokes.

The scoring slowed after the turn but, crucially, McIlroy showed a ruthless edge on the par-fives with two birdies at the second and eighth. At Augusta, that's a necessity to win or, perhaps in McIlroy's case, at least to drag yourself into contention.

Indeed, the second round had been so good, the misfortunes of the first had largely been forgotten - the wild hook on the 13th that led to an ugly bogey and the pulled 8-iron on the 16th that prompted the frustrated outburst, followed by a forlorn cry to the heavens, chief among them.

That shouldn't be forgotten. After all, those poor shots did occur yesterday. But they were among his first few shots of the day rather than the latter. Had it been regression rather than improvement in his second round, there would be more grounds for concern than optimism in McIlroy's case.

With the leaders still six shots ahead of him, and plenty of players in between McIlroy and the summit, to say that his Grand Slam hopes have suddenly reignited would be a little bit of an exaggeration.

But, at the same time, they're not completely extinguished either. And if the progression from one round to the next only continues, then watch this space.

Belfast Telegraph


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