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April 9 2013

10:24 AM

Confidence has returned for McIlroy

McIlroy arrived at Augusta National off a runner-up last week in San Antonio. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When Rory McIlroy played his first Masters four years ago, Augusta National took some getting used to.

"It took me a while to get comfortable taking a divot," he joked, referencing the pristine conditions here.

This year, it has taken McIlroy a while to get comfortable with his swing.

After missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, being bounced in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and walking off the golf course midway through The Honda Classic -- criticism and scrutiny abounding over his change in equipment, toothache and suddenly fragile psyche -- McIlroy's confidence hit rock bottom.

But after some hard work on the range with his coach, a final-round 65 at Doral and a runner-up in San Antonio two weeks later, McIlroy arrives at the year's first major in a different frame of mind.

"I got a lot out of last week, and obviously bringing a nice bit of confidence here this week," McIlroy said Tuesday. "Last week wasn't about the golf swing. It was just about getting competitive play. I felt like I accomplished that.

"Doral was the place where I felt like I turned the corner in terms of my golf swing."

Further proof came at TPC San Antonio, where McIlroy led the field in greens in regulation.

After signing a lucrative endorsement deal and switching to Nike clubs in the offseason -- a move he wanted to make in one step rather than multiple ones -- McIlroy is also finally settled in with his equipment, particularly the driver.

"I'm 100 percent there," he said. "I feel they are a part of me now."

Now he hopes to make a Green Jacket part of his resume.

Two years ago, McIlroy entered the final round here with a four-stroke lead only to implode on Sunday and shoot 80. Last year, he struggled on the weekend, shooting 77-76 to tie for 40th.

In four appearances here, McIlroy's best result was his tie for 15th in 2011. But there are no demons McIlroy said, only one goal.

"Would anything less than a win be a disappointment this week?," he said. Yeah, it would be. Every time you come here you're wanting to win that Green Jacket, and every time that you don't, it's another chance missed."

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