Bill Elliott takes a look over the trials and tribulations of Rory McIlroy at the 2020 Masters and concludes - anything is possible!
Few players have experienced the range of emotions endured by Rory McIlroy over the last decade. Elation, disappointment, eager anticipation, surprise, regret, the Wee Man has soared and suffered as he has chased his personal Holy Grail in this most perverse of games.
As he finished off his first round at the 2020 Masters, attacking the back nine he has plundered more than anyone else in recent years, he came up with another emotion…embarrassment. Hooks, fats, poor putts, you name it, this hugely talented man laid it out for the watching world to see and ponder.
At the short 16th he reached down and found a bad place he almost certainly has never visited since he was 8 years old. This hole is just over 160 yards, McIlroy flapped his ball so far left it entered the pond some 30 yards wide of its intended target.
Like everyone, he has hit bad shots before. Never, however, has he hit one as bad as this. No wonder he yelped in shocked surprise. Half an hour later he finished, his three over par 75 pulling him 10 shots behind his playing partner Dustin Johnson.
He then he did something so right it made me smile. He got angry. Angry at himself, angry at Augusta probably, angry at the world. He didn’t say it, he didn’t overload this emotion, he just strode to the practice ground and whacked a few balls before a nice chap in a green jacket told him it was time to start his second round.
This wasn’t much time to recover but the brevity worked perfectly. For once he did not have time to fret and fidget and feel sorry for himself. Instead he had to get on with it.
And get on with it he did. Gone was the confusion and in its place we had a man intent on pulling himself out of a very big hole. He almost certainly will not win this Masters but at least such a victory is now not impossible thanks to a superb 66 that could have been better but that made sure that he will be around this weekend to chase the dream that must give him occasional nightmares.
A big posse of quality golfers are ahead of him with several shots protecting their backs. It’s a big ask, surely too big, but if he can maintain his rhythm and further stoke his determination, anything is possible.
The likes of Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Tiger Woods and our own Justin Rose, Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood will be more than merely hard to catch but now he can try. He will still be frustrated but he no longer is embarrassed in this, the most unpredictable and unique Masters in history.