AUGUSTA - Rory McIlroy is used to being the young upstart in golf, so he had a new look at things on Thursday when he opened his sixth Masters campaign.
For alongside the 24-year-old Irishman were two players -- both fast rising -- who were younger than himself.
Patrick Reed, with three wins under his belt since since August, is 23 and Jordan Spieth, who last year became the first teenager since 1931 to win a PGA Tour event, is just 20.
McIlory said it made him look like a "veteran" but he more than held his own against his young challengers.
The two-time major winner settled for a 71 after taking a bogey at the last, which was matched by Spieth, while Reed bogeyed the last three holes for a 73.
In the absence of the injured Tiger Woods, it was the McIlroy grouping that drew the day's biggest crowd and while they failed to scale the top-most heights of the first round leaderboard, there was some superb shotmaking on display to admire.
McIlroy said he had been impressed by the composure shown by both of his playing partners.
"I felt they handled it really well," he said. "They both had it under par, Jordan finished under par, Patrick didn't have a good finish, but I felt like they played well.
"Jordan is young compared to Patrick and myself. Patrick's a year younger than me, but there's a lot of good young guys coming up, coming through.
"There's maybe Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, myself, these guys, Matteo Manassero, there's a lot of good young players coming up."
McIlroy, who blew a four-shot lead going into the final round of the 2011 Masters, has a best showing of 15th in the tournament, and he feels he now has the experience and knowledge of the fabled course to do much better than that.
Patience was what he lacked three years ago and that he feels will be the key this week as he looks to win a third major after the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.
"I was very patient out there," he said. "Even when I made bogey at 12, I didn't really push too hard. I had a couple of holes coming up where I could make birdies. So it was a good day for patience."
Making his first appearance in the Masters, Dallas-born Spieth said he had enjoyed the day in what had been "a cool pairing."
"Patrick is from Texas, lives in Texas, which is kind of nice when you see the international field to have a fellow Texan with you.
"And then I've played some golf with Rory, very easy to play with. And I really enjoyed playing with him, he roots for me.
"We had good talks on the fairway and whatnot. And he's obviously former number one and a major champion at 25 or 26, whatever he is."
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