Rory McIlroy / Getty Images
There are certain things you expect to see when it comes to the Masters. The azaleas blooming, $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches and Augusta National's emerald green fairways ... They're all tournament traditions.
Well, you might want to add another to the list of yearly Masters traditions: Seeing Rory McIlroy's name on the leaderboard going into the weekend.
The 22-year-old Ulsterman is still a relative newbie to the Masters scene. He doesn't have Fred Couples' history or Phil Mickelson's local knowledge, but over the past three years, McIlroy's produced some moments of brilliance that made you believe we'd be seeing his name on the leaderboard for the next 20-plus years.
That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise to see him just one shot off the lead after two rounds. His 3-under 69 wasn't special; he didn't produce a shot that made you say, He's going to win this tournament.
But he honestly didn't need one of those shots. He just needed to make up some ground and stay in contention – and he managed to do just that on Friday. McIlroy rarely made a mistake, and when he did, he managed to get up-and-down to save par. He kept the mistakes to a minimum, which is exactly what you need to do if you want to win a green jacket.
He still has 36 holes to go before he exercises last year's demons, but the way he's playing at the moment, he's got as good a shot as anyone in the field to win this tournament on Sunday afternoon.
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- Rory McIlroy
- Fred Couples
- Augusta National