Rory McIlroy: Fitness the main focus, not Augusta

‘My biggest concern has just been getting healthy and being able to get back here’

 

Rory McIlroy admits his bid to complete the career grand slam has been pushed to the back of his mind ahead of his return to action in the WGC-Mexico Championship.

McIlroy needs victory in the Masters to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having won all four major titles, but has played just once in 2017 due to a rib injury.

The 27-year-old now has only three events to prepare for the year’s first major at Augusta National, where he has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three years.

“Honestly I haven’t thought much about Augusta,” McIlroy said in a pre-tournament press conference at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, which is so far above sea level that McIlroy has been hitting eight irons 210 yards.

“My biggest concern has just been getting healthy and being able to get back here.

“The routine was get up early in the morning, do my rehab stuff, try to get out and see what I could do on the golf course, get back, have some treatment, do a few more exercises. It was just basically that on repeat for the last three or four weeks.

“I think it’s nice I get to play four rounds, see where my game is, take the week off next week, reassess how my body feels, how my game feels and then from there I can start to think about the Masters and think about what I really need to do to get ready for Augusta.”

The likes of 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, world number one Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Hideki Matsuyama already have wins under their belt this season, although McIlroy did lose out in a play-off for the South African Open in January.

“I don’t feel that far behind,” the four-time major winner added. “I come in here this week with a chance to get back to number one in the world.

“But in terms of maybe preparation and just rounds played, I haven’t had that. Hopefully over these next three competitive weeks that I’m playing here, Bay Hill and the Match Play, I can get that and hopefully I feel like I’ve played enough to go into Augusta and not feel underprepared.”

McIlroy can reclaim top spot in the world rankings for the first time since August 2015 by winning his third World Golf Championship title, as long as Johnson finishes joint fourth or worse.

“Whenever you’re ranked number one in the world at something, it’s a pretty big deal,” added McIlroy, who will partner Johnson and Matsuyama for the first two rounds in the £7.9million event.

“I think for the guys out here, it’s an ego thing. It’s just nice to be able to say that you’re the best in the world at what you do.

“I’ve always said the world rankings are a by-product of how you play week in, week out trying to win golf tournaments. There are a lot of guys up there near the number one spot in the world and it would be nice to get on a run like I did in 2014 and sort of separate myself from the rest of the guys.”

Forty nine of the world’s top 50 are in the 77-man field, with world number two Jason Day absent due to illness.

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