Rory McIlroy’s Masters week received the ideal kick-start as the Northern Irishman produced a hole-in-one at Augusta National’s 16th on Monday. Using a seven iron, McIlroy delighted the crowd with a 170-yard ace.
As part of a low-key build-up McIlroy deliberately waited until Sunday evening before arriving in Georgia, taking to the course with the Englishman Chris Wood at 10.40am on Monday. Three holes from the end of that round, a moment which many may regard as a potential sign of Masters things to come arrived.
“The roar was large considering it was a practice round,” McIlroy said. “I don’t think I have ever heard a roar that large in a practice round. It was great. It had been a nice practice round and that was a bit of a highlight. It ended the match with Chris, as well.
“The 16th is not a pushover. Everyone thinks with the pin on the left it’s a decent chance but you get a pin on the right it’s a tough hole. I played well. I feel like my game is in good shape.”
Wood could take defeat in good spirit, having failed to match his opponent’s heroics. “When he closes out with a hole in one to beat me 3&2, you can’t really do a lot about that,” Wood said with a smile. “We were all square through 13 or 14. Both of us benefited from having a little game.
“I’ve never quite heard a noise like it. It was pretty mad. It was great fun. It was a cool moment.
“I suppose it wasn’t quite game over but when the crowd are chanting ‘Rory Rory’ and you’ve got to try and hit a seven iron to that flag there’s not much chance.
“He’s a quality, quality player. I’ve played with just about everybody now and Rory is up there with everyone. Very, very impressive. He’s going to be a favourite every year he comes back here and this year is no different.”
McIlroy, who needs only a Masters victory to complete a Grand Slam of major championships, explained his thinking behind playing with a single ball on Monday.
“It gets me into a nice mind-set of this is how I’m going to play,” said the 26-year-old. “I’m going to try to do the same tomorrow, play 18 in a match with someone or a fourball match if three others want to come and join me.
“I feel that’s the best way for me to prepare. It’s competitive, you’re trying to shoot a score. The pins aren’t in the spots where they are going to be at the weekend but at the same time you still have to get the ball in the hole and hole putts that you feel a little bit of pressure on.”
This article was written by Ewan Murray at Augusta, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th April 2016 21.19 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010