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Rory McIlroy aims to master intricacies of Augusta National in 10th tournament appearance

Rory McIlroy seems to have an encyclopedic memory when it comes to golf history.

He can tell you that Sam Snead and Ben Hogan each won the Masters in their 10th try. And that Arnold Palmer was 28 when he pulled on his first green jacket.

Those tidbits can be heartening, since the Irishman is 28 and, much to his amazement, already is playing for the 10th time at Augusta National Golf Club.

But McIlroy is far too pragmatic to think that experiences alone will produce a victory.

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“I feel like I’ve been here long enough, and I’ve played enough rounds around here to know how to pay this golf course well enough to win,” McIlroy said. “But I never come in here thinking I’ve served my time and it’s my turn. Because it’s never your turn.

“It’s not going to fall into your lap; you have to go out and win the Masters, and you have to go and earn it. And I’m here this week to earn it all.”

A victory would make McIlroy, a 23-time winner worldwide, the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam, the last being Tiger Woods in 2000. Interestingly, the only golfer to finish a career Slam at Augusta was Gene Sarazen, in the second edition of the Masters in 1935.

After a U.S. Open victory in 2011, McIlroy won the PGA Championship in 2012, and the British Open and the PGA in 2014.

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The pressure has been ratcheted up in the McIlroy’s last three tries at Augusta, where he finished fourth, tied for 10th and tied for seventh.

“Definitely coming into the 2015 Masters, that’s when I felt like there was a lot of hype coming off the two majors the summer before and [being the] world No. 1,” McIlroy said. “I felt that anticipation and hype, and I nearly built it up in my head a little bit too much.”

Of course, there also is the haunting of the 2011 Masters, which could have been his first major win. But McIlroy collapsed with an 80 after he led with nine holes to play.

“It took me a while to get over it, but I knew if I looked at the big picture it would serve me well in the long run,” McIlroy said., “And I don’t think I would have had the career I’ve had so far if it wasn’t for that day. So I think it was very important.”

McIlroy has said he afforded Augusta too much respect. He cited last year, when the wind blew in Round 1 and he thought he managed a solid score of 72. But that was seven shots worse than Charley Hoffman’s 65.

“I have gotten in my way here before, but I think because I’m a little more comfortable on the golf course and comfortable in my game, I don’t think that will happen this week.”

Tracer coming to Masters

The technology has become as ubiquitous as leaderboards. Golf fans now expect almost every shot on golf TV broadcasts will be tracked by a colorful line.

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The Masters resisted using the technology beyond its digital broadcasts until this year, even if the green jackets seem to be dipping their toe in rather tepidly.

The tracer technology will be used on five holes — 9, 10, 13, 15 and 18.

“We’re trying to blend in the technology with our traditional coverage,” CBS chairman Sean McManus said.

The Masters is known for sometimes being dragged kicking into the future. It didn’t televise all 18 holes of the final round until 2002.

Key pairings

Woods will be grouped in the first two rounds with Australian Marc Leishman and Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. Phil Mickelson is playing with Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar. McIlroy draws former Masters champion Adam Scott and Jon Rahm. Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson gets major winners Henrik Stenson and Jason Day.

sports@latimes.com


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