AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Rory McIlroy has another early lead at a major championship.
Now, he's got to avoid another meltdown.
One of golf's brightest young stars, the 21-year-old McIlroy surged to the top of the Masters with a 7-under 65 on Thursday. He was in the clubhouse one shot clear of the field, poised to become the youngest first-round leader in Masters history.
It was a reminder of his dynamic start last year in the British Open. McIlroy opened with a 63, only to slump to an 80 in the howling wind of St. Andrews the next day.
He shouldn't face those conditions in Georgia, where the forecast called for warm, clear weather through the weekend. Whatever happens, he feels better prepared to deal with any adversity.
"At the time, it was very disappointing," McIlroy said, referring to his second-round collapse at St. Andrews. "But looking back, it was probably very valuable in my progression as a golfer."
He rallied to finish third in the British Open, though far behind winner Louis Oosthuizen, and was third at the PGA Championship. Throw in his performance at the Ryder Cup, where he helped Europe reclaim the trophy from the U.S., and it's easy to understand why the young man from Northern Ireland is considered a star-in-the-making.
He sure had it going at Augusta National, taking advantage of nearly perfect conditions for scoring: a sunny day with only the slightest breeze. McIlroy started rolling at the par-5 second with the first of three straight birdies, and kept it going through a bogey-free round.
"I trusted everything," he said. "I trusted where I wanted to hit the ball. That's the key around here. With some of these pins, you can get tentative and try to guide it in there. You just have to pick your targets and trust your swing. I was very happy with the way I did that."