Rory McIlroy curbing expectations before Masters
Former world number one Rory McIlroy is trying to temper the amount of pressure he puts on himself ahead of the Masters.
McIlroy started the year with two top-three finishes on the European Tour, but he has not found the same success this year on the PGA Tour, missing the cut at Pebble Beach and then finishing tied for 20th at last week's Genesis Open.
With just a few scheduled events before the four-time major champion tries to earn the career grand slam at Augusta National in April, McIlroy is trying to curb expectations as he prepares for the Honda Classic, starting in Florida on Thursday.
"You don't have to win a tournament [before the Masters]," McIlroy, playing in his current hometown, said. "You look at, you know, obviously Sergio going in last year, had won a tournament. Danny Willett the year before had won a tournament.
"But I don't think it's necessary, but obviously if you do win one, it makes you feel a little better about yourself going there. But I don't think it's imperative. I think as long as you know that your game is in good shape and you're happy with all aspects, because again, the margins between winning and losing are so fine that you could be really happy with your game one week and finish 10th, and actually not feel great about it and have a chance to win.
"So that's how fine the margins are out here. So I don't think it's imperative to, but obviously to get a win under your belt, it does make you feel a bit better going into it. Yeah, I don't want to put myself under that pressure because there's enough going into Augusta, anyway."
McIlroy has had some success at the Honda Classic, winning in 2012 and losing a play-off two years later, but the Northern Irishman has also endured some rough finishes at PGA National.
"Feast or famine, that's what my history's been here," he said. "It's a tough golf course. Some guys play the West Coast and it's sort of one week too many for them.
"I don't want to get beaten up again. That's why a few guys mightn't be here. I think it magnifies if your game's off just a touch. If you miss it just by tiny margins here, it can punish you quite heavily. But if you're on, it gives you opportunities to score, and I think that's what's happened."
Despite McIlroy's tumultuous past at this venue, he believes there are ways to attack the course.
"I think it's usually windy here. It looks like it's going to be breezy for the week, so controlling your ball flight is a big thing," McIlroy said. "I think being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play, especially with the way the rough is. Play out of the fairway. Hitting greens; it's a ball-striker's golf course. You can't up-and-down it around here and expect to win. You have to hit fairways. You have to hit greens and you have to just take your chances when they come along.
"But this week with the way the wind is, it's a par 70; you shoot four scores in the 60s, you're not going to be that far away."