McIlroy and Poulter eye Masters momentum
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter will have to defy the odds if they want to win the Valero Texas Open and then claim a first Green Jacket in next week's US Masters.
Only two players have won the week prior to the Masters and then gone on to win in Augusta; Sandy Lyle in the Greater Greensboro Open in 1988 and Phil Mickelson in the BellSouth Classic in 2006. But the Ryder Cup team-mates will both be trying to at least get into contention after adding the tournament to their schedules at the last minute - both on the advice of their caddy.
"JP (Fitzgerald) was the one that mentioned it to me," McIlroy explained to reporters at the Houston Open last week. "He said, 'If you just play a few more rounds, I think you're going to be ready'."
He added: "I didn't really think about it too much and sat down, had some lunch, started to think about it and I texted him and said, 'I don't think this is a bad idea'. Probably took me an hour or two to sort of think about it and decide."
McIlroy's struggles this year have been well documented, with the 23-year-old walking off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic and losing his status as world number one to Tiger Woods.
And although the Masters will be his third tournament in succession - in stark contrast to last year when he took three weeks off before Augusta - the Northern Irishman's poor form does have one advantage.
"There's not any worry of burnout," joked McIlroy, who has completed just 12 full competitive rounds in 2013. "It's just about playing a bit more competitive golf and getting a little sharper. I think the more rounds I play, the better it will be for me going into Augusta."
In contrast, Poulter has not missed a cut in his last 33 events worldwide, but has also only played three strokeplay events this year.
"I've never played the week prior to the Masters before but I've only played three events so far this year so it feels like a perfect fit," said Poulter, whose caddie Terry Mundy suggested the tight course would play to the Englishman's strengths.
McIlroy and Poulter are by no means the only star names competing this week, with major champions Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk and Charl Schwartzel also in the field.