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Rory McIlroy vows to 'prove a point' at Augusta after topping poll

By Karl MacGinty

Rory McIlroy will follow the exact same route to April's US Masters as he did last year.

This represents a strong vote of confidence by the 22-year-old in his preparation for the season's first Major ... and how he has completely left behind last spring's harrowing final day implosion at Augusta National .

US Open champion McIlroy, the runaway winner of the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year in association with the Croke Park Hotel, is in Dubai at present making final preparations for his 2012 debut next week at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

It promises to be a rip-roaring start to the season for world No 3 McIlroy as he and the other members of the European Tour's world top four (Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer) take on Tiger Woods in the Arabian Desert.

A fortnight later, McIlroy will play the Dubai Desert Classic (February 9-12), before heading for Tucson for the Accenture Match Play World Championship (February 22-26), his first event of the season in the US.

Though membership of the US PGA Tour in 2012 requires McIlroy to play at least one more event in the States this year, probably during the FedEx Cup play-offs in the autumn, the Ulster ace has kept his schedule to just five events in the run-up to Augusta.

They include the Honda Classic (March 1-4) and Cadillac World Golf Championship at Doral (March 8-11), giving him ample opportunity to pay a relaxed private visit to Augusta before Masters week and do a little 'home-hunting' in Florida's West Palm Beach.

"I can't wait for the Masters," said McIlroy, a sentiment that would be echoed by most golf fans. "Everything I do in the new year up until April will be geared toward Augusta.

"I'm going to do the exact same preparation this year leading up to it. I can't wait to get back. I obviously know my way around the golf course and I feel like I'm going back there with a point to prove to myself.

"I'd love to get into contention again."

McIlroy is the first former Irish Independent Young Sportstar of the Year Award-winner (2006) to top the annual readers' poll and win the main prize.

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