I got preparations wrong, admits Rory

Rory McIlroy now admits he mismanaged his early season schedule and should have played the Omega Dubai Desert Classic after finishing well down the board in the Shell Houston Open.

McIlroy put four balls into the water in what was just his 12th completed round of golf this year ahead of signing for a two under par 70 and a four under tally in suburban Humble.

The world number two recorded 15 birdies over the four days but also nine bogeys and an opening round double bogey.

McIlroy delivered four of his prize Nike balls into water over the last day, including a drive off the third, his second shot into the 11th, a drive at the next and then his drive into a hazard splitting the 15th fairway.

“Apart from hitting those four balls into water, it was pretty solid,” he said.

“I feel like my short game is sharp and I putted pretty nice, so it wasn’t too bad. Again, if I can limit those sloppy mistakes, I’ll be fine.”

Now after an 11th hour decision last Friday, McIlroy is taking the three-hour drive west from Houston to San Antonio seeking his double Major-winning form ahead of the Masters on April 11.

“I might have played one more event in the Middle East, and not taken that four-week break after Abu Dhabi,” he said.

McIlroy was asked did that infer the Dubai Desert Classic and the scene of his maiden pro career victory in 2009.

He said: “Yes, maybe I should have added Dubai.”

McIlroy had left nearby Abu Dhabi hopelessly missing the cut with a pair of 75s and then suffered the embarrassment of losing out in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match-Play to close friend Shane Lowry.

“After losing in the first round of the match-play, I then played a round-and-half at the Honda, so I haven’t played much golf,” McIlroy added.

“But heading to San Antonio, my course management is the big thing, and not short-siding myself, hitting it fat into the greens when you need to, giving yourself a bit more margin for errors.

“I also need to limit making bogeys from the middle of the fairway, and if I can keep those of my card, then I’ll be in great shape.”

McIlroy will join fellow Irishmen Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry in America’s seventh largest city. But before leaving Houston, McIlroy was ‘ambushed’ by the Easter Bunny in front of the Redstone clubhouse and delighted in having his photo taken.

Aside from a small pay cheque, McIlroy bought himself a cowboy hat. If he does win in San Antonio, he will not only go back to world number one but also be presented with a specially endorsed pair of Valero Texas Open cowboy boots.

McIlroy played the final round alongside England’s David Lynn who finished eight shots behind him in their last Major, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. And while McIlroy was introduced on the first tee as the reigning PGA champion, Lynn quickly wondered how many spectators gathered around the opening tee were aware he had finished runner-up to the Irishman.

“It was good to play alongside Rory again as we haven’t done that for quite a while,” said Lynn.

“He finished nicely with a couple of birdies after putting into the water four times but still managed to shoot two under.”

However after spending some four hours beside him he echoed comments earlier in the week by McIlroy’s long-time coach, Michael Bannon and short-game expert, Dave Stockton, that there is nothing seriously wrong with McIlroy’s game.

“Golf is such a fickle game and one minute you’ve got it and then you find yourself struggling,” he said. “I wouldn’t read much into how he’s playing because from what I saw out there today he’s hitting the ball really well so it’s pretty close.”

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