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Rory McIlroy admits to new hard-hitting approach in bid to 'keep up' as he begins Masters preparation at CJ Cup

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Rory McIlroy is in California for this week's Zozo Championship

Rory McIlroy is in California for this week's Zozo Championship

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Rory McIlroy is in California for this week's Zozo Championship

Rory McIlroy has admitted to a change in approach as he tries to 'keep up' with golf's top players.

Bryson DeChambeau's new long-hitting strategy has already altered the sport, especially in the wake of his six-shot success at the US Open, as he averages over 340 yards off the tee for the new PGA Tour season.

Attention now turns to the year's final major - the Masters at Augusta in four weeks.

McIlroy is back in competitive action this week to prepare and carded a one over par opening round at the CJ Cup, eight behind overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton and in a tie for 37th spot.

The world number four caused a stir earlier this month with an Instagram post showing off the 191mph ball speed he generated in practice as he attempts to replicate Dechambeau's tactic of over-powering the field.

And ahead of this week's tournament, he admitted he has made changes - from extra gym work to a lighter driver shaft - in a bid to improve.

"I think what I want to do is at least know that I have it (extra speed and distance) if I need it," he explained. "I'm not going to try to do it all the time, I'm not trying to get my ball speed into the 190s every time I hit a driver, but at least I know that if I need to do it, I can do it. I'm just trying to keep up with the way it's going.

"It's been fun trying to do it. I don't know how Bryson does it every day. You hit drivers really hard one day and you sort of have to back off for a couple days and do it again. It seems like he's got a lot of robustness in that body that he can keep doing it day after day."

McIlroy and wife Erica, of course, celebrated the birth of Poppy Kennedy last month and the new dad says that his first daughter might be able to help him when golf gets difficult.

"I don't think having a daughter's going to change how I play but it might change my outlook if I have a bad day and I know that I can go back and see my family and have a smile on my face," he said.

"I've played two events since becoming a dad and I've played pretty well both times, two top-10s. I felt like I had half a chance going into the final day of the U.S. Open. I didn't play great on Monday, but sill a couple of decent weeks and I feel like my game is at least heading in the right direction."

Whatever about a slightly disappointing opener this week, in which he averaged 329 yards off the tee in a round that included four birdies and five bogeys, he'll be aiming to peak for Augusta, where his quest for a career grand slam continues.

"This is not a bad place to prepare for Augusta," he said of the CJ Cup venue at Shadow Creek. "It's bent, the same conditions you're going to get there in terms of grass anyway. Climate's going to be a bit different, but it's not bad preparation.

"There's so many different ways to go about preparing for a big event like (The Masters). You look at someone like Bryson, who's taking four weeks off to prepare, some guys like to play their way in."

Belfast Telegraph