Rory wants masters edge

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, where he finished joint 27th and was replaced by tournament winner Jason Day as the world No. 2.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, where he finished joint 27th and was replaced by tournament winner Jason Day as the world No. 2.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pre-Augusta win on McIlroy's radar as he says current lack of form is a mental issue

MIAMI • Defending champion Rory McIlroy is determined to get back to winning ways at the World Golf Championship Dell Match Play, which starts today, his final tune-up event before next month's Masters in Augusta.

The Northern Irishman has suffered fluctuating form this year, slipping to No. 3 in the world rankings after an indifferent performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.

The 26-year-old shot 75-67-75-65 at the tournament, a frustrating inconsistency that he attributed to mental chinks in his normally formidable armour.

"The good stuff is there, I just need to eradicate the bad stuff," he said. "It's nothing to do with me technically. It's more mental."

Speaking after arriving in Texas for this week's event in Austin, McIlroy said he was anxious to get a victory under his belt leading into the Masters.

"It is important. I'd love to win before Augusta and this is my last chance to do that.

"And seeing the guys that have won, everyone is running in good form. That's really what you want to do. You want your game rounding into form and playing to the best of your abilities (at) this time of the year."

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

If I can get a few really good matches under my belt and progress to the weekend... I feel that's all I need confidence-wise going into Augusta.

RORY MCILROY, who said he just needs to 'eradicate the bad stuff' in his game after his 75-67-75-65 at Bay Hill last week.

McIlroy won a memorable victory at last year's WGC Match Play when it was staged in San Francisco, and he believes he is not far off his best form as he prepares for this week's event at the Austin Country Club.

"I haven't had the confidence of getting a win this year, but I feel like it's close," he said. "And this would obviously be a great week to get that win. If I can get a few really good matches under my belt and progress to the weekend and play some good golf, I feel that's all I need confidence-wise going into Augusta."

The Match Play tournament will feature an unusual format, with 16 groups of four players contesting a round-robin phase before advancing to a knockout.

McIlroy was drawn to face Smylie Kaufman, Kevin Na and Thorbjorn Olesen.

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth was drawn against his former college rival Justin Thomas, Victor Dubuisson of France and Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

Australia's Jason Day, riding high after last weekend's victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, faces a tricky group featuring England's Paul Casey, Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee and Northern Ireland's Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell.

Adam Scott, who has already won twice this year, is grouped with Bill Haas, Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters, while US Ryder Cup duo Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker have been drawn together.

McIlroy said he would not take anyone lightly.

"A big key to match play is you can't underestimate anyone," he told the Golf Channel.

"You have to fully expect for them to play their best golf. You have to go out and make as many birdies as you can."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

WGC DELL MATCH PLAY

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, tomorrow, 2am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2016, with the headline 'Rory wants masters edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe