Masters fever may already engulf the narrative of Rory McIlroy but the man himself has insisted thoughts of Augusta National are not yet prominent in his mind.
Starting this weekend at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, McIlroy has only two events before starting his quest to complete a grand slam of majors. Against that backdrop, anticipation is rising.
McIlroy, though, claims he has no problems at all with immediate focus. “I don’t really feel any more anticipation this year than I do any other year,” said the world No1 on Wednesday. “I’m really just focused on the next couple of events that I’m playing and try and play well there and then after that all I’ll be working on is getting ready for Augusta.”
While McIlroy’s stance is admirable, the vast majority of questions before this tournament, which is significant enough in itself, concerned Masters matters. “I’d rather have the questions because it’s obviously a great position to be in going into Augusta and having it being the only major that I haven’t won,” he added. “It’s not a bad position to be in.
“There’s always excitement and anticipation and hype that surrounds Augusta every year and I feel it regardless if I’m going in as the favourite or under the radar or whatever. There’s always hype. There’s always buildup. My name is getting thrown around a little bit more than it used to but I’m OK with that.”
McIlroy has arrived in Doral having surprisingly missed the cut in last week’s Honda Classic. Amid poor weather conditions and competition delays, McIlroy slipped to seven-over after 36 holes.
“It wasn’t a bad week to see where I was,” McIlroy said. “I identified a few things I needed to work on over the weekend and I feel like I’ve addressed those. It was mostly just to do with playing in the wind. I wasn’t comfortable playing a few shots that I needed last week at PGA National.
“Luckily it was still pretty windy over the last couple of days at home so I got to play in the wind, and even the practice round out there earlier the wind got up on the back nine. So it was nice to be able to come and play some of the shots that I think I’ll need this week.
“Look, in fairness, if I was going to miss a weekend it wasn’t a bad one to miss, being at home and with all the delays and everything. It gave me a bit of time to work on my game and work on what I needed to.”
Doral’s Blue Monster, upon which grass appears only occasionally in the midst of water, might have been the last place Ian Poulter fancied playing this week.
Poulter hit five balls into water hazards during the closing round of the Honda Classic, ultimately finishing in a tie for third and just one shot outside a playoff.
The Englishman laughed when reminded of the specifics of this venue. “I don’t have a phobia against water now,” said the Englishman. “It means nothing.
“If you hit some loose shots around this golf course there is a chance you are going to be wet because there are hazards everywhere. But I haven’t suddenly developed a fear of water, I’m not worried or bothered by it.
“I can’t sit down on the sofa and kill myself with the thoughts of what-ifs and other silly things from last week. I have four tournaments in a row, I am playing great golf.
“Yes, I should have won the golf tournament. In my eyes I should have finished it off with ease and I didn’t; from my side that is embarrassing.
“The good work is paying off and I have to look positively towards the tournaments coming up. Then I just have to take my chances. I am happy with where my game is right now.”
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