Call it Augusta’s Rory Chorus. Born with hope, infused with affection, but ultimately resigned to disappointment. The Life Story of Rory Masters.
On a second day of competition driven by winds so strong and unpredictable they seemed to hold the peloton back with their grip, one day it looked like the standings were both low and crowded enough to be there for the taking, McIlroy, the man who remains a green jacket short of a golf Grand Slam, was unable to advance.
Like he did on Thursday, McIlroy shot a 1-over par 73 on Friday, a 2-over combo putting him in a tie at 15 for 23rd. Well inside the cut (which was 4-over), but well outside the lead (held by world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler at 8-under), neither the best of the pack nor the worst. Not quite in the mix but not out either, a golf purgatory that McIlroy, 32, seems destined to revisit every year, where a round can unfold from a birdie like the one he did the n No 2 on Friday, so filled with promise it would portend a good day, to double-bogey on No 11, so fueled by fear that he was on his way to a 14th straight year of disappointment.
And then, just enough courage between the two to stay afloat, to feed the wavering dream of winning it all one day. The Life Story of Rory Masters.
But there is another side to the McIlroy story, one that has come to grow before our eyes as golfers, over time, with age and well, with life. This place may have beaten and beaten him down, but it didn’t break him. For all the lessons of heartbreak and resilience the Masters taught him, from the devastating collapse of 2011 when he should have won his first career major and earned the coveted lifetime Masters pass, to the rebounding tenacity he showed in winning his very next major, at the ensuing US Open, McIlroy returns to Augusta every year not with resentment, but with determination.
“It’s maturity. It is experience. It’s going back 13 years in a row empty-handed,” he said. “So it’s like, uh, it’s just go out and play and see what happens.”
Not with fear, but with gratitude.
“For a golfer, it’s one of the best places in the world,” he said. “Someone could discuss St. Andrews. Could someone discuss here. But it’s such a cool place you can never hate it.
Not anger, but hope.
“Sometimes I hate the results of the tournament,” he said, “but in terms of location, club and members, it’s wonderful, and I always have a great time here. … I’ve always feel like you’re in. You go out tomorrow and play a decent front nine, and all of a sudden you’re in the thick of the action.
The thick curly locks no longer stick out from under his Nike cap, and some extra gray hair is tucked underneath. A few more wrinkles are around her Irish eyes, with maybe a few more bags under them too, now that little Poppy has made the McIlroys a family and sleep is a gift to be cherished. Through it all, Augusta himself served as a constant backdrop, a chart of golf’s growth that measured him from the young, high-spirited kid who came close to winning in 2011 to the highest-ranked golfer who competed. at the 2015 tournament with victories at two of the previous year’s four majors, the British Open and the PGA.
That 2015 tournament, won by Jordan Spieth, is McIlroy’s last best chance, his fourth-place finish as close as he got to the jacket. But worse than that, it’s the major dividing line it represents, the first of 26 consecutive majors entering this one that McIlroy was unable to win.
“I’m maybe at a different stage in my life where back then golf was everything,” he said upon arriving here this week. “Obviously, listen, it’s still very, very important, but maybe at the time I would think that – I don’t know if I would feel satisfied if I didn’t win one or whatever. , but it’s less pressure I know that if I play well I will give myself a chance to win this golf tournament It’s just a matter of going out there and executing the way you know as you can and stick to your game plan and be patient and be disciplined and all the things you need to do around Augusta National.
“But I don’t feel [pressure]. If I think back to 2015, when I was coming out of that race, yes, there’s definitely less pressure, I think, than there was then.
He will be out early Saturday, or moving day as it is known in golf, also looking to move the needle of his own story.
“I’m in a decent position,” he said. “I would like to be at least a few shots better, but I’m still here. …Right now, I still feel like time is on my side. I’m 32 with a ton of experience. “
Plenty of time to write a new Rory story.