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April 10, 2014

The Masters that made McIlroy cry

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy had one of the greatest recoveries in 2011 when he blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the Masters by shooting 80, and then bounced back two months later to set the scoring record in the U.S. Open in his first major win.

His father recalled a phone conversation he had with McIlroy that night after the Masters in which the 21-year-old said he was OK.

Turns out the phone call with his mother the next morning was different.

“That’s probably the only time I’ve cried over golf was the morning after in 2011,” McIlroy said.

He was blowing away the field at Augusta that year when everything went wrong, especially the back nine. He took triple bogey on No. 10 after a tee shot into the cabins, three-putted the 11th and four-putted the 12th.

So it’s strange to hear that McIlroy has never had a top 10 at the Masters in five appearances. He tied for 15th in 2011. He fell out of contention each of the last two years with a poor round on Saturday, including a 79 last year.

Even so, he arrived at Augusta National optimistic instead of wary from past experiences. Asked to describe the emotions he associated with Augusta National, he replied, “Excitement.”

“I have no ill feelings toward 2011,” he said. “I thought it was a very important day in my career. It was a big learning curve for me. And I don’t know if I had not had that day, would I be the person and the player that I am sitting here? Because I learned so much from it. I learned exactly not what to do under pressure and contention, and I definitely learned from that day how to handle my emotions better on the course.”

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