The 19-year-old has enjoyed a sensational start to the season, and cut a hugely popular figure on the fairways of Augusta National as he played the back nine in Monday’s practice session with 2003 winner Mike Weir and England’s Ryder Cup star, Oliver Wilson.
After registering his maiden European Tour victory at the Dubai Desert Classic in February – as well as impressing Stateside in the WCG and PGA Tour – the rise of McIlroy heads a line of young blood in the game, with fellow teenagers Danny Lee and Ryo Ishikawa also set to make their Masters debuts this week.
But it is the Northern Irishman who has been tipped for greater success in Augusta, although the teenager appeared to have his feet firmly on the ground when speaking at a press conference today. “I got here by playing well,” he said. ‘It’s just great to be here at the Masters. I have been here before, but this is the first time I have played. “This is a week that you just have to enjoy.”
McIlroy was greeted throughout his round with the lively Monday crowd eager to see the first glimpse of the European star. His game did not disappoint, most notably on the par-3 16th where his 7-iron spun back to within feet of the pin.
“Considering this is a Monday,” McIlroy added, “It’s pretty impressive out there with the crowd. And it’s probably going to get even busier as the week goes on.
“There is just something about this golf course. You need to have good imagination. It’s so different.
“It was quite tough out there with the yardages. The winds picked up as well and there was a bit of a swirl – but I just really enjoyed the course. The course sets up well for me. I like to put a lot of spin on my chip shots, and you really need to consider your pace.”
McIlroy also commented on how he has stayed focused despite being spoken of so highly by his peers, saying: “I am just an average guy who just happens to be pretty good at golf. That’s the way I see it.
“Maybe I don’t feel like a 19-year-old – I have matured a lot since I came on Tour.
“I think it is great being a young golfer, along with the likes of Danny and Ryo. I would hope it is an inspiration to other young golfers in the game.”
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