Thursday was obviously a good day to be Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old from Holywood -- Northern Ireland -- and the first-round co-leader with Alvaro Quiros after a scintillating 7-under 65 at Augusta National Golf Club.
"It's a great start to the tournament," said McIlroy, in the understatement of the day.
His seven-birdie, no-bogey trip around Augusta National made him the youngest first-round leader in Masters history. Seve Ballesteros was 23 when he held the first-round lead in 1980. In seven rounds at the Masters, it was McIlroy's first in the 60s.
"I'm glad I got that little monkey off my back," he said.
McIlroy played beyond his years on a warm and mostly calm day. He found himself in rhythm almost from the start, which may be a little surprising because he's coming off a three-week break. After Doral, McIlroy spent nine days in Northern Ireland and the balance of his time off in West Palm Beach, Fla., where his primary objectives numbered two.
"If I wasn't on the driving range, I was in the gym," he said.
Last year at the Masters, McIlroy missed the cut, and he was profoundly disappointed.
"It was my low point of the season," he said.
There was another that McIlroy did not mention. He opened with a 63 in the British Open at St. Andrews only to come back with an 80 in the second round. That 63 is the lowest first-round in the history of the tournament. McIlroy finished in a tie for third and said his blowup in the second round was a learning experience.
"When you shoot a score like that, you should never let it happen again."
McIlroy said he was fortunate to be paired with 22-year-old Rickie Fowler and 23-year-old Jason Day and that he particularly enjoyed walking and talking with Fowler. They guided their topics of conversation to specific interests.
"Cars, boats, anything but golf, really," McIlroy said.
Fowler, who shot 2-under 70, birdied three of the last four holes. Day birdied four of the last six for a 72.
"There were a lot of people really cheering for Rory," Fowler said. "There definitely was an energy going on with our group. When me and Jason finally were able to make some birdies, it was nice to join the party with him."
Day was equally as complimentary to McIlroy.
"It was just nice to be along for the ride," Day said.
There is a McIlroy contingent staying with him in a rented house in Augusta and they seem to be adjusting pretty well. They visited the Augusta Mall on Wrightsboro Road, and McIlroy bought a football. He's learned to throw spirals to his buddies -- perhaps too well. Their neighbor asked them to quiet down in the street.
If that's the kid in McIlroy, the professional part of him is growing up fast. The Masters is his ninth major, and he has three top-three finishes, two of them in his last two majors - the 2010 British Open and the 2010 PGA Championship.
"I'm relatively inexperienced, but I'm getting there," McIlroy said.