Rory McIlroy’s hopes of completing a career grand slam at Augusta National this week seemed all but over on Friday morning but just a few hours later he produced a spectacular fightback to show he could perhaps pull off a record Masters comeback win.
Four-times major champion McIlroy dug himself into a deep hole by opening with a three-over-par 75 that left him 10 strokes off the lead at a tournament where nobody has come from more than seven behind after 18 holes.
Tiger Woods (2005) and Nick Faldo (1990) share that comeback record, and there was little to suggest that McIlroy could potentially surpass them from the way he finished the first round, which had spilled over to Friday after bad light ended play early on Thursday.
But after a “colourful” pep talk from friend and Augusta National member Jimmy Dunne during Friday’s short 30-minute break between rounds, the Northern Irishman went nine shots better in the second round.
He compiled a bogey-free six-under-par 66 to trail the 36-hole clubhouse leaders by six shots on another day of low scoring in ideal conditions.
“I turned it around nicely and shot a good one, at least gave myself a chance going into the weekend,” McIlroy said.
“I honestly have been playing so good coming in here, and then I go into the first round and I shoot 75, and I’m like, ‘where the hell did that come from?’
“So I knew it was in there, it was just a matter of just trusting a little more and being committed. It was better this afternoon.”
McIlroy’s worst shot in the first round came at the 170-yard par-three 16th, where he pulled his tee shot so far left that the ball never had a chance of finding dry land, landing in the middle of the pond.