Masters 2012: I laugh about 2011 meltdown, says McIlroy

THE MASTERS

  • Venue: Augusta National, Georgia
  • Dates: 5-8 April
  • Live BBC TV coverage: BBC Two Saturday & Sunday from 2030 and 1900 BST; Amen Corner plus holes 15 & 16 on Saturday & Sunday on Red Button & online
  • BBC Radio: 5 live from 2100 BST on Thursday, Friday & Saturday; 2000 BST Sunday

Rory McIlroy says he is now able to see the funny side of his 2011 final-round nightmare at Augusta.

The 22-year-old US Open champion carried a four-stroke lead into the Sunday, but shot an eight-over-par 80 to finish on four under, 10 shy of South African winner Charl Schwartzel.

"At this stage I can laugh about it," McIlroy told BBC Radio 5 live.

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It's big coming here as a reigning major champion

Rory McIlroy on BBC Radio 5 live

He added: "One of the things I learnt was that as a person and as a golfer I wasn't ready to win the Masters."

McIlroy, who, earlier this year, became the second youngest golfer to hold the world number one spot , said a practice round on the course last week reminded him of the moment his challenge went "pear-shaped" .

"It was the first time I'd been on the course since last year and the first time I'd been on the 10th," said the Northern Ireland world number two.

"Playing the 10th brings back memories, but once you get it out of the way it's fine and you just concentrate on the week."

Of the 10th hole, where he drove his tee shot into the area near the cabins, he added: "I said at the news conference that I didn't realise how close to tee-box those cabins were. I thought they were a lot further down the fairway. It's nice to be able to laugh about it."

McIlroy was still one ahead heading up to the hole but then recorded a triple-bogey, bogey and double-bogey.

Excitement builds for 2012 Masters

The Holywood player said his US Open triumph at Bethsheba in June 2011 helped ease the pain of Augusta.

"It's big coming here as a reigning major champion," he continued.

"I didn't know what was going to happen after this time last year. I didn't know whether it was going to have an effect or whether I would bounce back.

"But I was able to bounce back straight away. It's great to win a major, but to win so soon after what happened here [at Augusta] is extra special."

It is set to be another hotly-contested tournament and McIlroy believes 14-major winner Tiger Woods's return to form will add to the excitement.

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If he ends up learning this golf course I think he's going to win here a number of times

Phil Mickelson on McIlroy

"So many players are playing well and Tiger's back near the top of his game. This week could be one of the best Masters for a long time," he added.

McIlroy has also been awarded the European Tour's Golfer of the Month award for March after winning the Honda Classic in Florida to become the second youngest holder of the world number one title.

"It's always nice to receive these plaudits and honours," he said. "There were a couple of guys in with a great chance last month, so it's nice to come out on top."

Meanwhile, three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson has spoken in glowing terms of McIlroy's ability and believes the Irishman also has the ability to win the tournament several times.

"I think that he's an incredible player," said Mickelson, who won his first major at Augusta in 2004.

"That you could tell when he first came out. I think, like everybody here, you can see his talent and his ability. He plays without fear, which is a great way to play.

"When you get soft conditions like at the US Open he's going to light it up - and I think that he's going to continue his great play.

"If he ends up learning this golf course I think he's going to win here a number of times."