HOUSTON, Texas (AFP) - Rory McIlroy is more concerned with playing well in his final tune-up event ahead of next month's Masters rather than reclaiming the world No.1 spot.
Tiger Woods recaptured the top ranking for the first time since October of 2010 by taking his third US PGA triumph of the year on Monday at Bay Hill, adding the Arnold Palmer Invitational to wins at Torrey Pines and Doral.
McIlroy, who has struggled in the early going this year as he adjusts to new clubs, would take back the top ranking with a victory in this week's US$6.2 million (S$7.7 million) Houston Open at par-72 Redstone Golf Club, which starts on Thursday.
"It's always nice to say that you're on top of the world and top of the rankings, but if you play the golf that you want to and win the tournaments that you want to, then that takes care of itself," McIlroy said. "Getting into contention is the main goal, try to have a chance to win on Sunday. We'll go from there."
The Northern Irish prodigy, who won last year's PGA Championship and the 2011 US Open, shared eighth at Doral and skipped Bay Hill as he prepares for the fast and undulating greens of Augusta National, and for Woods at his best.
"I didn't think I could go into the Masters under the radar," McIlroy said. "I can sort of go in a little bit underneath him, so in a way it's not a bad thing.
"It's great for golf to have him playing well and hopefully I can just try and keep up with him."
McIlroy and Woods traded motivating e-mails over Woods retaking the top ranking. McIlroy texted him "Well done" and Woods sent a clear message he wants to see McIlroy playing his best at the Masters in two weeks as well.
"He said everything was good there - told me to get my finger out of my ass and win this week," McIlroy said.
"I enjoy his company. He gives me a lot of grief and I try to give him some back but it's good. He's fun to be around. He just seems like he's in a really good place on the course, off the course, so it's good to see."
McIlroy is ready for what could be a back-and-forth season of major shootouts and rankings rivalry with Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.
"It doesn't really bother me," McIlroy said. "I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win.
"This is a good week to try and get into contention and have a chance with the Masters coming up but I'm just really focused on this week in Houston and trying to play well here."
McIlroy said he feels comfortable with his clubs after nearly three months of events and practise as he prepares to play the first two rounds at Houston alongside Americans Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson.
"It has been going well in practise," McIlroy said. "Obviously it's a lot different out on the course but I definitely saw some good signs at Doral."