Rory McIlroy ready to switch it up in bid for first Masters title


Rory McIlroy ready to switch it up in build-up to the Masters as four-time major champion seeks elusive first green jacket

  • Rory McIlroy usually spends the build-up to the Masters at home in Florida 
  • But his year he will be in San Antonio to compete in the Valero Texas Open 
  • The Northern Irishman continued his fine form at the Genesis Invitational 











Given that nothing else has worked so far in his elusive quest to become just the sixth man to complete the career Grand Slam, it’s no surprise to learn that Rory McIlroy will try something different in the build-up to the Masters this year.

Instead of time spent practising and relaxing at home in Florida in the days leading up to Augusta — his usual routine since the Slam moved into view in 2015 — the Northern Irishman will be in San Antonio to compete in the Valero Texas Open.

The WGC Match Play held in the same state a fortnight before the season’s first major is usually McIlroy’s final pit stop but he is thinking of dropping out this year for the first time.

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Rory McIlroy continued his fine form in the second round of the Genesis Invitational

‘I’m still on the fence on that one but I will definitely play San Antonio,’ said the 32-year-old.

‘If you don’t get through your group in the Match Play it means almost two weeks off before arguably the biggest stroke play event of the year and that’s a little too much for me. I’m going to play my way into the Masters.’ 

McIlroy has competed once before in the Texas Open but that was out of necessity rather than choice. Playing poorly in the early part of 2013, he added it at the last minute — and was glad he did as he finished runner-up.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland made a significant move up the leaderboard with a 64 on Friday

Norway’s Viktor Hovland made a significant move up the leaderboard with a 64 on Friday

McIlroy’s Augusta preparations this time look as if they will be far more serene.

The consistent form he has shown since his abject disappointment at the Ryder Cup last September continued in the second round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera on Friday. 

Since Whistling Straits, McIlroy has a win and another top three to his name in four starts, with nothing worse than a 12th-place finish, albeit in a tournament he should have won, the Dubai Desert Classic, where he found the water at the 18th.

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Out early on another gorgeous Hollywood morning alongside Norway’s Viktor Hovland, the man who beat him in the Middle East, the pair made significant strides up the leaderboard.

Joaquin Niemann carded a second successive 63 to reach 16 under at the halfway stage

Joaquin Niemann carded a second successive 63 to reach 16 under at the halfway stage

Hovland, in particular, took full advantage of ideal scoring conditions, picking up six strokes in his first 12 holes to move into the top six on six under, alongside Englishman Paul Casey and two ahead of McIlroy, who picked up a couple of strokes himself.

Galloping away in the distance, mind, was Chilean Joaquin Niemann. Not content with a fabulous opening round of 63, he picked up another seven shots to reach 15 under as he came towards the final holes of his second round.

The early clubhouse leader was forgotten Scot Russell Knox, who has made a solid start to the season after falling all the way from 18th in the world to outside the top 250.

First man out at 6.40am, this was far more like it from the 36-year-old from Inverness as he shot a 67 to reach a halfway total of seven under, and earn himself a later tee-time today.

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