Augusta - Rory McIlroy said Friday he hoped to recreate his weekend form of last year as he pushes for a win in the Masters that would make him just the sixth player to win all four majors.
The 26-year-old from Northern Ireland enjoyed a fine day in testing conditions at Augusta National, rebounding from an early double bogey to card a 71.
That propelled him up the leaderboard on a day when just getting near par was beyond most players and he ended it just one shy of leader Jordan Spieth at 3-under.
The world's number two and three players will step out together in Saturday's third round in what will be a huge draw for all involved in golf.
It was all a far cry from last year, when McIlroy virtually played himself out of the competition with two middling rounds on Thursday and Friday.
With the pressure off, he was the form player at the weekend, producing rounds of 68 and 66 that gave him his best Masters finish in seven campaigns -- a tie for fourth.
"Yeah, if I can have a weekend this weekend like I did that last weekend, I'd be very happy," he said.
"Obviously with the position I was in last year going into the weekend, there wasn't much pressure. You could go out there and free-wheel it a little bit and try to make as many birdies as you could and the conditions were more benign, so you could go after the course a bit more.
"Hopefully it's a third year in a row and a third weekend in a row where I can post a couple of good scores and see where that leaves me at the end of the week."
What McIlroy did not recall, however, was his 2011 performance in the Masters, when he took a four-shot lead into the final round and fell apart with an 80 that dropped him into a tie for 15th place.
Two months later, he won the US Open, his first major crown, and since then he has won two PGA Championships, in 2012 and 2014, as well as the British Open in 2014 and been the top ranked player in the world.
Only the Masters remains to be captured to allow McIlroy to join Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only players to win all four of golf's crown jewel tournaments.
To that end, and bearing in mind the importance of putting at Augusta National, McIlroy this year has changed to a left-below-right grip on his putter.
Asked to assess what progress he had made on the greens, McIlroy replied: "It's feeling good.
"I changed for a reason. I felt like it was better for me. I felt like it was a more consistent roll.
"I've probably missed a couple of putts that I should have made this week, but I've held at least one or two that were bonuses that I maybe mightn't have made on another day."