Rory McIlroy will come back to Augusta National this week desperate to put behind him the demons and heartache that have existed on the course.
Memories of his final-round choke in 2011 that saw his lead disappear into 15th position courtesy of an eight-over par day no doubt still remain very fresh. Memories of his third-round 77 after sitting tied for third last year are even fresher still.
McIlroy has never finished inside the top 10 at the Masters, and with various off-field issues plaguing him through 2013, it seems he'll come to August National this week with plenty of problems to deal with.
And while that might not seem ideal for a man whose struggled with inconsistencies at this hallowed venue, 2013 could well be the year that it all changes for the Northern Irishman. Amid the controversy and the drama that so often unfolds at the Masters, McIlroy could very well be the man to emerge victorious and composed as he churns out a stellar performance this week.
Which is bizarre given his year so far—summed up in him walking off mid-round at the Honda Classic in Florida, and then losing the world No. 1 ranking to Tiger Woods later that month.
McIlroy's problems this year (and his problems at Augusta over the years) have made the World No. 2 somewhat of a sleeper pick for the tournament this year. Very rarely will that be said about a ranked player—no less the second best in the world who is fresh off an incredible 2012 season—but Rory is simply underrated every time the tour hits Augusta National.
Which, it seems, is a big advantage to the Northern Irishman.
"I didn't think I could go into the Masters under the radar," McIlroy said via Mercury News, when asked about how his approach to the Masters is going. "But I can sort of go in a little bit underneath him [Tiger Woods] so in a way it's not a bad thing."
He also commented via The Guardian on his current mental state, and how that will affect his plans at Augusta this year—saying that:
I'm here to concentrate on myself and play my game. It really doesn't matter what anyone else does, because I'm here to try and shoot the best score that I can and, if I can do that, I know I'll have a good chance.
Every time you come here to Augusta you're wanting to win that Green Jacket and every time that you don't it's another chance missed, I guess.
But if I'm sitting here on Sunday night and I've finished second or if I have given it a good run, I couldn't be too disappointed because I would have had a great tournament. But the ultimate goal is getting one of those jackets.
I'm very comfortable and I'm 100 percent there.
How the Northern Irishman will go when he takes the course this week still remains to be seen, but given his mental state, it seems safe to suggest that he'll be much better equipped than he has been in years gone by, and the results should follow that.
McIlroy might not admit it, but he does carry demons into Augusta this year, but a strong performance here will more than dispel them from his presence. Regardless of what the leaderboard might end up saying, as long as he is mentally in a good place and hitting the ball well, then those issues and inconsistencies may well be done away with.
He might have a stellar week or an average one, but for McIlroy, the biggest key is about getting his mind past the hurdle that exists every year in April.
For if he can do that, then he'll primed for greatness down the track. And who knows, perhaps he'll even win a green jacket along the way.
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