Big Month Ahead For McIlroy

Golfing fans in America haven’t had much opportunity to see World No 1 Rory McIlroy in action this year, but that’s set to change starting this week.

While Tiger Woods’ woes dominated golfing headlines across the Atlantic at the start of the year, McIlroy set about his business on the European Tour’s desert swing, picking up a second place at the Abu Dhbi HSBC Championship before winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic two weeks later.

The performances were clear evidence that the 25-year-old’s superb form in the second half of 2014 hadn’t deserted him in the new season, and starting at this week’s Honda Classic, he will start testing that form on US soil.

At this time of the year all roads lead to Augusta, of course, and McIlroy will be eyeing some good results in the coming weeks as he looks to be in prime condition ahead of the year’s first major.

The Masters is the only one of golf’s big four tournaments McIlroy hasn’t won, so a victory there is no doubt one of his main goals of the season.

“I guess maybe there’s a few things that I’m happy with in my game that, say, if Augusta was to roll around next week, I would be happy going there knowing that I’m hitting the ball the way I want to,” McIlroy said at the start of February.

“I think it’s important just to put in some good performances before that and get into contention and feel what it’s like in the heat of the moment, because that’s when you really know how your game is and how it holds up under some pressure.”

McIlroy’s schedule in the coming weeks lines up like this: He’ll head to Palm Beach Gardens in Florida this week for the Honda Classic, taking on a world class field which included Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and veteran Phil Mickelson.

The week after that sees the arrival of the first World Golf Championships event of the year, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami, and that field will be filled to the brim with the cream of global golfing talent – the Top 50 players from the Official World Golf Rankings plus the top money earners from last season in both Europe and the US.

After the Cadillac, McIlroy takes a week off, but returns the following week to fulfill a promise made to golfing legend Arnold Palmer.

McIlroy assured the golfing legend in previous years that, though the Arnold Palmer Invitational didn’t fit into his schedule at the time, he would make an appearance at Bay Hill at some point in the future.

“I am very pleased that Rory is going to be playing here,” said the 85-year-old Palmer recently. “I have talked to Rory about playing here, and it didn’t work into his schedule in the past, but he told me that when it did work into his schedule that he would be here, and he is making good on his word. We look forward to having him.”

Following the AP Invitational, there are two more events before the Masters arrives – the Valero Texas and Shell Houston Opens. McIlroy played the Valero in 2013 and showed up in Houston the following year, but no word yet on if he will be taking those two weeks prior to Augusta off, or if he chooses to get one more tournament under his belt.

Whatever he decides, the build-up to the Masters well and truly gets under way at Palm Beach Gardens on Thursday, and with no word yet on Tiger Woods’ return, all eyes will be on the progress of golf’s undisputed World No 1.

Michael Schmitt