Rory McIlroy will use his first appearance in the Arnold Palmer Invitational as his last competitive outing before attempting to complete the career grand slam in next month’s Masters.
McIlroy missed the cut in the Honda Classic on his PGA Tour debut at the start of the month and then hit the headlines for throwing his three iron into a lake at Doral during the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he went on to finish joint ninth.
The world number one spent part of last week practising at Augusta National with his father Gerry and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as he looks to claim a first green jacket and join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four major titles.
“I took three weeks off before the Masters in 2011 and it worked pretty well for 63 holes, not quite 72,” McIlroy joked in his pre-tournament press conference, a reference to his back-nine collapse in a closing 80 after starting the final round with a four-shot lead.
“I am just trying to adopt a similar approach.”
Asked about his attitude at Augusta last week, the 25-year-old added: “100 per cent fun, zero per cent serious. I didn’t hit any extra balls, just hit one ball the whole time. I just wanted to go and enjoy it with my dad, that’s what the whole thing was about. There were four father-and-son pairs and we had a great time.
“Tee to green I know what I am doing, it’s just about being comfortable on and around the greens.”
McIlroy revealed he had been working hard on his game for several days at home following an “unplanned” visit from coach Michael Bannon, adding: “I am feeling much better with my game than I was walking off Doral 10 days ago.
“I am excited in the direction it’s going and to be here and get one more competitive outing and try to get myself into contention.”
After getting his first look at Bay Hill, McIlroy admitted he was beginning to regret not playing the event sooner, both as the course suits his game and in order to pay his respects to Palmer.
“What Arnold Palmer has done for our game and what he’s done for the PGA Tour, it was about time that I showed up here and played in his tournament,” McIlroy added.
The top five in the world rankings are all competing this week - McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Jason Day - with Scott looking to bounce back from missing the cut in the Valspar Championship last week, ending his run of 45 PGA Tour events without an early exit.