Tuesday 20 February 2018

Rory hits the road in hectic build-up for Masters goal

The Green Jacket is a huge focus for McIlroy who can complete a career Grand Slam if he triumphs in the first of the season’s Major championships. Photo: AP
The Green Jacket is a huge focus for McIlroy who can complete a career Grand Slam if he triumphs in the first of the season’s Major championships. Photo: AP
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy's build-up for the Masters in April will now total seven tournaments compared to five last year.

The Green Jacket is a huge focus for McIlroy who can complete a career Grand Slam if he triumphs in the first of the season's Major championships.

McIlroy believes that more playing time can enhance his bid for glory this year, particularly after the time he lost due to his ankle injury last summer.

Appropriately, as one of the new 'Big 3' in the game, McIlroy has decided to compete in Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational from March 17-20.

This will be only his second appearance at Bay Hill. He made his debut in the tournament last year, and finished joint 11th.

"I am delighted to add the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill to my 2016 playing schedule and I look forward to another chance to win Mr Palmer's tournament. Bay Hill is a great course, a real golfing challenge, and I'm glad it suits my game.

"It will take a lot of imagination and good shot-making to go really low, but I'm really excited to get back this year," said McIlroy.


Golfing legend Palmer, who with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, formed another 'Big 3' in the game, would love to see McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day at his tournament, but given the plethora of events and the demands on the top players, that may not happen this year.

As for McIlroy, this is a rest week. He will resume in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera CC in Los Angeles next week, followed by the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

After that it's another week off, and he then plays Bay Hill before defending his WGC-Dell Match Play title.

McIlroy will then take another break before heading into Augusta which will be played from April 7-10.

Meanwhile, Spieth and Day will compete in the $7 million AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California which starts today. Irish interest centres on Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne, the latter playing for the third successive week on the PGA Tour courtesy of a sponsor's invitation.

Missing the cut at Phoenix last week was disappointing, but Dunne is delighted with PGA Tour experience in this his rookie year as a Tour pro.

The 23-year-old announced KPMG as his latest sponsor and will hope for a good performance over the next few days at one of the great Pro-Am tournaments packed with top golfers and a host of celebrities.

The total starting field is 312, made up of two-man teams. They all play a round on each of the courses - Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Monterey Peninsula CC.

The cut comes at the top 60 professionals and ties and the 25 leading pro-am teams after 54 holes.

Harrington and Lowry are in the same group teeing off on the Monterey CC course today alongside their respective playing partners - JP McManus (12) and Dermot Desmond (10).

Dunne's amateur partner is the former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, who plays off four handicap, and they also start the tournament on the Monterrey layout - a par 71 - later today.

European Tour action centres on the Tshwane Open in Pretoria where Peter Lawrie, Kevin Phelan and Ruaidhri McGee will hope to make a good start in the first round.

Off the course, Graeme McDowell helped raise more than $600,000 (€533,000) to benefit sick children at the fifth annual Best of Ireland Dinner on Tuesday night.

McDowell was honorary patron at the function held in the New York Athletic Club.

His G-Mac Foundation has partnered with the Children's Medical Research Foundation (CMRF) since 2012 to raise funds for Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.

"People resonate with the cause and I am so thankful for all the generosity," said McDowell.

Tshwane Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30am

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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