Rory McIlroy believes he must front up if he is to have any chance of becoming the youngest Masters winner since Tiger Woods in 1997.
The Ulsterman, 21, knows that the destiny of the green jacket will be decided on the back nine on Sunday. But he’s also aware that he will not be part of the leading posse coming down the stretch unless he conquers Augusta’s terrifying front nine.
Targeting a fast start each day, McIlroy said: “I shot 31 on the back nine in the final round when I made my debut two years ago and that was a good. But I feel I need to be able to go out and do that on the front nine as well because that’s where you build the foundation of your score.
“Once you get through the 10th and 11th, the back nine is where you can pick up a few shots. But the key to a good score is getting through the front nine in one or two under par. That takes a lot of the pressure off and really gives you a chance to shoot a really good score.”
McIlroy has never broken 70 in the six competitive rounds he’s played at Augusta National since he turned up as a rookie two year ago and finished 20th.
In 2009 he broke par on the front side for the first three days but slumped to a three over 39 on Sunday.
He repaired the damage of that run by storming home in 31 for a closing 70, which is still his best round at Augusta.
But last year he played the opening nine in four over with rounds of 72 and 77 leading to his first missed cut in a major.
Inspired by what Phil Mickelson achieved in 2009, when he scorched to the turn in six under 30 to Tiger Woods’ 31 during a final round charge, McIlroy recalled: “I always look at 2009 when Phil went out in 30 to get back in the mix.
“He needed to shoot two or three under on the back 9 to win the Masters and couldn’t get it done. But that 30 gave him a chance.”
McIlroy regards Mickelson as the hot favourite to win his fourth green jacket and admits that he has a tough task ahead, even if he attacks the course.
He said: “I was talking to Phil about it. The thing about Augusta for him is he can he so aggressive and so imperfect.
“If he goes for pins, he has the short game to be able to get it up and down. That’s confidence more than anything else.
“You can have all the ability in the world but you need to confidence to be able to say, okay I can short side myself and I am going to get it up and down.”