One year ago, then 21 year old Rory McIlroy held a four shot lead with just 9 holes to go at Augusta. He was poised to become the youngest Masters champion since Tiger Woods before it all went horribly wrong. McIlroy suffered through one of the most infamous meltdowns in Masters history as choked away the lead and finished with an 80 on the day.
To his credit though, McIlroy saw that terrible day as a learning experience.
"I learned a lot," he told reporters this week. " I think one of the things I learned was that as a person and as a golfer, I wasn't ready to win the Masters; wasn't ready to win a major. I really needed to think about what I needed to do to improve mentally and in different aspects of my game to get better. I felt like I did that."
McIlroy says the experience of what happened at Augusta is a large part of what propelled him to his first major win at the US Open not long after.
"So the big thing for me is it was a huge learning curve, learning experience, and, you know, I took a lot from it and was able to put some of the things I learned into practice very quickly, and that's what resulted in winning the U.S. Open a couple months after."
Much of the narrative this week has been Rory vs Tiger as the two were installed as co-favorites. However, Rory declined to see it that way.
"You have to remember, there's 80‑plus players in this field. It's not just about two guys or three guys or whatever. It's nice to be getting all this praise and everything, but you have to take it with a pinch of salt. I definitely don't have the achievements that Tiger has or nowhere near the level of, yeah, success, that he's had over the last 15 years."
While McIlroy may have been coy about his own chances, Tiger Woods was effusive in his praise of the 22 year old Irishman.
"He has all of the makings of being a great champion for a long period of time," Woods said.
McIlroy tees off at 1:42 pm on Thursday.