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Grand Slam Quest Rory McIlroy Staying Positive In Contention At Masters After First-Round 71

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Sometimes winning a major requires catching a break or two.

Rory McIlroy experienced one such moment on Thursday, as his tee shot struck a tree on the ninth hole at Augusta National but fortuitously bounced into the fairway, setting up a manageable second shot. This break allowed McIlroy to save par and propelled him to shoot a 71, marking his first sub-par opening round at the Masters since 2018.

The surprising turn of events left the world’s No. 2 player feeling unexpectedly optimistic.

At 34 years old, McIlroy now finds himself in contention to achieve the career Grand Slam, a feat that has eluded him for nearly a decade.

However, there’s still much work ahead.

McIlroy currently trails Bryson DeChambeau by six shots and his playing partner, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, by five. Yet, despite the sizable deficit, McIlroy remains positive, especially after a solid back nine performance in challenging windy conditions, hinting at his potential to contend for a coveted green jacket.

For McIlroy, this represents a significant departure from past Masters performances, where he has often found himself far down the leaderboard after the first round.

Frequent large deficits have occasionally led McIlroy to press, resulting in less-than-ideal outcomes. In both 2020 and 2022, he missed the cut after second rounds of 74 and 77, respectively.

Thus, McIlroy is grateful for finishing 1 under par.

Acknowledging the long road ahead, McIlroy emphasizes the importance of remaining calm and sticking to his game plan, recognizing that challenges and setbacks are inevitable throughout the tournament.

McIlroy’s strokes of luck didn’t end with the fortunate tree bounce on the ninth hole; he also benefited from a fortuitous outcome after finding the trees on the seventh hole, allowing him to make par.

Over the past decade, McIlroy has pursued the elusive goal of completing the modern Grand Slam, joining the ranks of golf legends such as Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Tiger Woods.

Although six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus believes in McIlroy’s talent and potential to secure a green jacket, he also acknowledges the unpredictability and challenges of the game, noting that even great players may fall short for various reasons.

As McIlroy looks ahead, he focuses on posting a strong performance on Friday while maintaining a positive mindset, drawing inspiration from an audiobook titled “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill, emphasizing the power of positivity when facing adversity.

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