Valero Texas Open: Rory McIlroy opens up on Masters scouting mission

The Northern Irishman certainly has Augusta on his mind as he prepares to sharpen up at TPC San Antonio this week.

Rory McIlroy is desperate to find the right formula that will help him end his quest to win The Masters.

And this year the plan of action involves playing the tournament before next week's big showdown in Georgia: the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.

That marks a change in policy as the Northern Irishman hasn't gone into a Masters on the back of tournament play since 2014.

Back then, he headed to Augusta following a seventh place in the Houston Open and finished eighth at The Masters.

As his other Masters finishes on the back of a warm-up are 20th, Missed Cut and 25th, it's fairly obvious why the strategy was abandoned. Playing the week before didn't seem to be helping him.

But a lot of water has passed under the bridge since he decided that a week off was the best prep. And let's be honest, four years is hardly a big enough sample size to decide that it doesn't work.

So, with that first Green Jacket still eluding him, the prize that would secure his career Grand Slam of Majors, it seems reasonable for McIlroy to mix it up again.

As he revealed in Wednesday's Valero Texas Open press conference, it's not the only thing he's tweaked this time.

Rory's Masters results and build-up

2021 MC - Didn't play week before

2020 5th - Didn't play week before

2019 21st - Didn't play week before

2018 5th - Didn't play week before

2017 7th - Didn't play week before

2016 10th - Didn't play week before

2015 4th - Didn't play week before

2014 8th - 7th Houston Open

2013 25th - 2nd Texas Open

2012 40th - Didn't play week before

2011 15th - Didn't play week before

2010 MC - MC Houston Open

2009 20th - 19th Houston Open

Here are the key Masters lines from Rory when he spoke to journalists.

On being back at the Texas Open

"I played well here back in 2013 and 2013 wasn't a great year for me anyway, but I definitely thought that the finish here gave me some confidence going into Augusta, and ended up having a decent week there.

"I sort of haven't really enjoyed the format of the Match Play the last couple years and I just wanted to mix it up and I still wanted to feel like I was sharp going into Augusta.

On what he'd normally be doing on his pre-Masters week off

"I'd just be playing at home and practising. One of the great things about playing the week before is you're staying busy. Sometimes being idle at home you can just start to think about things or overthink things or whatever it is.

"So to keep yourself busy and keep your mind on something else is a good thing. Yeah, I mean, I'd just be basically doing what I did last week, practice and playing and just sort of waiting to go up there."

On whether this week's course helps him prep for Augusta National

"I wanted my last competitive start before Augusta to be a stroke play event instead of match play.

"I think around the greens here, it can prepare you. I think the runoffs around the greens, the undulations on the greens, some of the shots you face if you do miss it and some of the bunkering around this course, the bunkers are pretty deep around the greenside.

"I think more so around the greens and sort of off the tee. This is a generous course off the tee, Augusta's somewhat generous as well, but it's just a different look. I think around the greens more sort of the chipping and pitching aspects are good preparation."

Rory McIlroy chips during practice at Kiawah Island

On anything else being different in his pre-Masters routine this year

"Yeah, I mean, a little bit, I guess. I was at Augusta the last couple of days and I just went there on my own. I didn't go with any members, I didn't sort of do the whole stay on property. I just wanted to come and see the golf course.

"Obviously there's some changes to the golf course on 11 and 15. Three new greens, 3, 13 and 17 are all brand new greens. I just wanted to go there and just see that for myself and sort of do a little bit of a scouting trip that I haven't really done the last couple years.

"That's a little different maybe. But it was good to be there, good to see the place. At least coming into this event and playing this week, I don't feel like there's a rush to get there next week and cram and prepare. I feel like I've already done most of my work, which is a nice feeling."

On what parts of his game he want to sharpen before Augusta

"So off the tee feels really good. Iron play is feeling good.

"I think just distance control, that's so important at Augusta. And then just around the greens, holing out from inside six feet. You're not going to have a lot of lag putts here because the greens are a lot smaller than they are at Augusta, and the green speeds slower.

"It's a really good guide to see where my game is, especially if you're having to hit shots under pressure to try to win a golf tournament, that's when things start to stand out and things that you maybe need to work on.

"For the most part, my game feels good, so it was just a case of just continuing to do what I've been doing over the last couple weeks."

Rory McIlroy watches his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the BMW Championship

On whether his game is in a better spot compared to this time last year

"Yeah, chalk and cheese. Actually, I wanted to play this event last year, but after The Players and the Match Play, I felt like it was better for me to just work on my swing at home and just work on my game because at least I had an opportunity to do that going into Augusta.

"So yeah, it's way different. I'm way more comfortable with my game, I'm happy with where everything is. Everything seems like it's a lot more settled."

READ MORE: Tiger Woods listed in the field for next week's Masters as potential comeback creeps closer.

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