Rory McIlroy faces hectic schedule ahead of career Grand Slam bid at the Masters
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 18/02/16 9:36pm
Rory McIlroy already has the Masters on his mind as he begins one of the busiest schedules of his career at this week's Northern Trust Open in California.
McIlroy and world No 1 Jordan Spieth headline a high-quality field at the historic Riviera Country Club on the outskirts of Los Angeles for the final event of the PGA Tour's West Coast Swing.
The 26-year-old will be making his debut in the tournament, and he will be teeing up in five of the next six events in the hope that the extra competition will benefit his preparation and confidence ahead of his bid to land the one major missing from his collection.
"You really just want your game in the best shape it possibly can be in," McIlroy said. "I think confidence is a huge thing going into Augusta. If you're confident with your game and you've got good belief in yourself, then that makes the week much easier.
"These tournaments that we've got coming up, we've got some of the strongest fields of the year, and it's great. I feel like when I come back to the States, the golf tournaments that I do play over here are the strongest fields. I like that. I like the challenge. I like to go up against all those guys.
"But this is the start of the road to the Masters and I think everyone, if not thinking about it directly, it's definitely in the back of their minds."
McIlroy confirmed last month that he had added the Northern Trust Open to his schedule, and he is looking forward to taking on one of the most iconic courses in the United States.
"I wanted to play here because of what I'd seen on TV and the great things people say about Riviera," he added. "It's a real thinker's golf course and it's a real treat to play something like this because we don't get to play them that often anymore.
"I saw a stat that there was more three-footers missed here than anywhere else last year, I think by a long way actually. Putting from inside six feet is going to be really important this week, because you're not going to hit the amount of greens that you're used to hitting."
McIlroy will make his regular trip to PGA National for the start of the Florida Swing at the Honda Classic next week, and he will also tee up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational next month while also featuring in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and defending his WGC-Dell Match Play title in Texas two weeks before the Masters.