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Rory McIlroy knows the memories of his 2011 Masters collapse will never go away. For as long as he plays this great game, he'll forever be remembered for his final round meltdown that saw him choke away a four-shot lead on Sunday afternoon.
It was the kind of round that probably should have rocked McIlroy's confidence to the core. But a funny thing happened following that fateful day: Rory McIlroy grew up. He learned from the mistakes, saying after his excruciating final round experience that he hoped it would "build a little bit of character."
It certainly did. Just two months later, McIlroy went on to blister the field at Congressional, winning the U.S. Open by an astounding eight shots. It was the kind of win that proved McIlroy had the moxy to learn and grow from the situation.
He's certainly grown by leaps and bounds in the last year. Aside from the major championship, McIlroy spent a short period of time as world number one, and turned into one of the most consistent players in the game – to the point where he's now a favorite every time he tees it up.
"I learned a lot [from last year's final round]," McIlroy said during Tuesday's press conference. "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.
"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."
McIlroy has cleared some incredible hurdles in the past year, but quite possibly the biggest of his career awaits when he tees it up on Thursday at Augusta National. It's time to see how he handles the demons one year after his collapse.
Conventional wisdom would tell you he'll be just fine – McIlroy even joked about the 10th hole, where he made triple-bogey on Sunday, during the press conference – but returning to a course that battered your psyche a year prior is a completely different situation.
McIlroy understands the important of putting 2011 behind him and making some positive memories at Augusta National. With a new mindset and sky-high confidence, there's reason to believe the kid from Northern Ireland is ready to move on contend once again at the Masters.
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- Rory McIlroy