Rory McIlroy will hope he has finally found the secret to successful Masters preparation as he competes in this week’s Shell Houston Open.
McIlroy has yet to record a top-10 finish in five appearances at Augusta National, his ‘best’ result being joint 15th in 2011 when he led by four shots going into the final round, only to collapse to a closing 80.
On that occasion, the 24-year-old did not play for three weeks before the year’s first major championship, an approach he repeated in 2012 in the belief that he usually performed well when fresh.
That did not transpire and a finish of 40th at Augusta prompted a rethink, with 2013 seeing the Holywood golfer playing in Houston and at the Valero Texas Open before the Masters.
It looked to be a good idea as McIlroy was only denied victory in Texas by a brilliant closing 63 from Scotland’s Martin Laird, but again there was to be no green jacket a week later.
A third round of 79 was followed by a closing 69, but that was only good enough for a share of 25th.
“I played last year ahead of the Masters and being directly before it is ideal preparation,” said Rory, who spent Monday and Tuesday prepping at Augusta.
“It is also a great tournament in it’s own right. I have been in contention a number of times already this season but unfortunately I have not managed to finish the job off.
“It would be nice to get into contention again this week and try and knock one off before heading to Augusta.”
And with Tiger Woods ruled out by injury, Rory is expecting a bit more attention in the coming weeks.
“Golf’s in a funny place at the minute,” McIlroy told BBC Sport ahead of this week’s Houston Open.
“You are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past with Tiger, Vijay (Singh) and Phil (Mickelson).
“I’d like to establish myself as that sort of player and someone’s got to step up so I’m trying to be that person and it would be a great place to start next week.”
McIlroy’s most recent appearance saw him finish 25th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March, although he has recorded two runners-up finishes in 2014 in Abu Dhabi and at the Honda Classic, where he lost out in a play-off.