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Master of the game Rory McIlroy relishing his Augusta warm-up

By Kevin Garside

Just what the rest of the world needs, a revved up Rory McIlroy minded to right the wrongs of a rotten week.

After a run of three wins and four seconds in his previous seven events McIlroy was more embarrassed than disappointed to miss the cut at the Honda Classic on his maiden outing of 2015 on the PGA Tour.

At least he could walk home from the PGA National, and after celebrating his mother's birthday on Friday night was spared the weather chaos of Saturday that ultimately forced a Monday finish.

The Ulsterman began the repairs with a winning 63 in the annual post-Honda Pro-Member event at Seminole before heading south to Doral to contest the first world golf championship of the season, the WGC-Cadillac, which begins today.

"It's nice to have my name up on the board. To walk into that locker room and have your name up there on that Pro Member board, it's a pretty cool board to look at. You have all the greats of the game are basically up there.

"And from last week I took a little bit from it in terms of where I made mistakes and what I needed to do differently. My second shot on 6 in the second round, which would have been my 15th hole, that sort of summed up my (game). It's just a nice held draw into that wind to the middle of the green. I hit a shot that isn't really like me. So I knew there was something not quite right, just went and worked on what I needed to do coming into this week."

As important a tournament as this is, its proximity to the first major of the year a month's hence means it cannot really escape the gravitational pull of the Masters.

The conversation quickly turns from all things Trump to Augusta National. Inevitably McIlroy is at the centre of the narrative, the Masters being the only major to elude him in his short career.

At the tender age of 25, he's already an old hand managing the hyperbole, and as he says, he would rather he be the centre of attention than not.

"After my previous couple of performances in the majors, I can see why it has got like this. I mean, I'm going for three majors in a row, going for my first Masters. If I win Augusta I have the chance to hold all four at one point. There's a lot of storyline. I know it can be talked about but I'm trying not to think about it too much, just go in there and prepare as best as I can, and try and execute the game plan as well as I can.

"I'd rather have the questions, because it's obviously a great position to be in going into Augusta and having it be the only major that I haven't won."

McIlroy has scheduled a first look at the course next week, taking his father Gerry for a knock. He will then compete at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in a fortnight before continuing his preparation at home.

Last week's anomaly might just be a factor in focusing McIlroy's mind.

"Sometimes you need a little kick in the backside to make you realise what you need to do," he said.

"You learn about yourself and you learn that you can handle the pressure or you can do certain things under pressure that you mightn't have done before. But definitely during your losses is where you learn the most.

"I've always said that the last round at Augusta in '11 was a huge learning curve for me. I took a lot from that day."

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