Rory McIlroy knows how significant this Masters could be in terms of golf history.

Once again, he's got a shot at the career Grand Slam.

"You have to embrace and relish the opportunity that is put in front of you," he said, "and go out and grab it."

Funny thing, it looked like the Masters would be the first major championship of McIlroy's career. In 2011, he led after each of the first three rounds and was still out front making the turn Sunday.

Then he played the final nine holes at 7 over to shoot 80.

Looking back, he considers it a turning point in his career.

"I feel like it made me a better player, I feel like it made me a better person," said McIlroy, among the Masters favorites after his victory a couple of weeks ago at Bay Hill. "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.

"And I don't think I would have had the career I've had so far if it wasn't for that day."

Firefighter's dream

Firefighter Matt Parziale, a 30-year-old from Station 1 in Brockton, Mass., is taking a break from his regular job to tee off at the Masters.

About five years ago, he gave up on his dream of being a pro golfer, having failed to make his mark on various mini-tours. He reclaimed his amateur status and became a firefighter in his hometown.

During his down time, Parziale continued to play golf. For three years, he entered the Mid-Amateur Championship, the top tournament for post-college golfers who aren't professionals, but failed to win even a single match.

Then, last fall at a club outside of Atlanta, Parziale's fortunes suddenly turned and he won it — he was headed to the Masters.

Matt is taking a leave from his firefighting job, giving him a chance to focus on his golf while he plays the Masters and, come June, the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, another perk of winning the Mid-Amateur. He's also planning to get married.

"I enjoy where I am," Parziale said. "I'm very fortunate to be able to do two things that I love doing — playing competitive golf and then having a career that I really do enjoy."

His burden's lifted

Justin Thomas no longer gets questions about when he's going to capture his first major title.

He took care of that last year at the PGA Championship, which made his news conference Tuesday at Augusta National a lot more pleasant.

"Not getting questions on a day like today: When do you feel like you're going to get your first major? Or, do you feel like you're one of the best players without a major?" Thomas said. "I was glad to get that over with as quick as I could."

Thomas is coming off an amazing season that included five victories in all, as well as a FedEx Cup championship. He's off to another stellar start in 2018 with two wins.