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Rory McIlroy stacks events with eye on The Masters

Nov 15, 2020; Augusta, Georgia, USA; Rory McIlroy plays a shot from a bunker on the second hole during the final round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National GC. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy has enjoyed enough success at Torrey Pines since adding the Farmers Insurance Open to his schedule a few years ago that he made the 8,500-mile trek to California from Abu Dhabi after a third-place finish last Sunday.

McIlroy has consecutive top-five finishes at Torrey Pines, which will also play host to the U.S. Open this summer.

“It’s great to be back,” McIlroy said Wednesday after a practice round on the South Course, where he will play the first round before heading to the North Course on Friday. “I didn’t really start playing this event until a little later on in my career, but it’s been a good venue for me.

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“Looking ahead to June and the U.S. Open here as well, it will be nice to at least have it fresh in the memory for then.”

McIlroy is in a stretch of playing seven of eight weeks and nine of 12 overall leading up to The Masters in April. He has fared well during the early months each of the past two years and feels fresh after taking nine weeks off following a T5 at Augusta National in November.

“I had a pretty quiet spell there for a few months,” said McIlroy, who has only five starts since the Tour Championship in September. “I just wanted to get back out and play.

“I felt like I sort of stopped last year on quite a positive note the way I played at Augusta and I just wanted to try to keep that going into the start of this year. I feel like the more I play, the more I’ll get comfortable with my game and know where it is. I just thought it was a good opportunity to sort of hit the ground running this week.”

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McIlroy tied for fifth at the Farmers two years ago. It was the second of seven consecutive top-10s, a stretch that helped spring the Northern Irishman to four worldwide victories in 2019 as he reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

The last of those four victories came two starts before his finished T3 at Torrey Pines last year. That came during another seven-event stretch of top-10 finishes and 11 out of 12.

However, McIlroy has not won since the WGC-HSBC Champions in November 2019 and struggled to regain his form following the PGA Tour’s three-month hiatus last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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McIlroy admitted struggling to adapt to competing without fans on the course. He has fallen to seventh in the world rankings but has shown signs of regaining that form with consecutive top-5s and four top-10s in his past six events.

The Farmers represents another key tune-up as he attempts to build toward The Masters, where he will make another attempt at completing the career grand slam.

“You’re always assessing your game and say, ‘OK, how is it going, is it progressing?’ with trying to get yourself in the best possible state for April,” McIlroy said. “But I don’t think anything can put you in a better place than playing well at golf tournaments you’re playing and getting into contention and winning.

“I think winning and being in contention and playing good rounds of golf, that’s the best way to prepare for going into major championships.”

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–Field Level Media