Saturday 21 September 2019

McIlroy sees WGC as the perfect tune-up for Augusta

Rory McIlroy celebrates his birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Arnold Palmer. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Rory McIlroy celebrates his birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Arnold Palmer. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy believes this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will be perfect preparation for the Masters.

Runner-up to Hunter Mahan in Tucson in 2012, the new world No 7 captured the WGC Match Play title at Harding Park in 2015, when the round-robin system was first introduced. While he failed to get through the group stage last year, he believes getting at least three matches under his belt at Austin Country Club will stand to him at Augusta.

"You're reacting to what's going on in front of you, and hopefully you're in a position at Augusta where you need to do that as well," he said at Bay Hill, where his blistering 64 on Sunday gave him his first win for 18 months.

"There are enough leaderboards out there to know where you are at all times, so if you're playing well in Match Play and you're reacting well to what's happening right there in front of you, there's no reason why you can't do that a couple weeks after."

World No 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson and No 2 Justin Thomas head a 64-strong field that is without Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott as well as the injured Brooks Koepka and Joost Luiten.

The 64 are divided into 16 four-player groups with each player playing three matches within their group tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.

While Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington failed to qualify and are taking the week off, non-qualifiers Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power will tee it up in the PGA Tour's coinciding Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic with Paul Dunne playing on a sponsor's invitation.

Harrington has opted to remain in the US to practise after a quadruple-bogey nine at his 15th hole on Friday led to him missing his fifth cut in his last six starts.

"This was my most gutting week of the season so far," Harrington wrote in his online diary. "To miss the cut by a shot was absolutely devastating as I had been going along nicely. What a performance it was from Rory. It's great to see him back to his best!"

On the Challenge Tour, Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Ruaidhri McGee, Cormac Sharvin and Michael Hoey tee it up in the season-opening Barclays Kenya Open on Thursday.

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