The world No 7 takes on American Boo Weekley in today’s first round at Dove Mountain knowing that anything can happen in an 18-hole matchplay sprint.
But having finished third in Abu Dhabi and ninth in Dubai in his first two starts of the season, he’s hoping that some concentrated work on his putting with coach Dave Stockton in Tucson this week will be the key to getting a win under his belt before the Masters.
“I haven’t hit the ball as well for a long time,” said McIlroy, who admitted that things are far different to 12 months ago when he arrived in a chilly Tucson and made an early exit to Shane Lowry, having struggled with his game and his new Nike clubs.
“I’ve spent a couple of days with Dave Stockton here because I was a little disappointed how I putted at the weekend in Dubai.”
While he insists that he hasn’t “hit the ball as well for a long time” he refused to look past his match with Weekley today given the uncertain nature of match play over 18 holes.
But when was asked if his stellar 2012 season was his benchmark and he said categorically: “I can do better. I went through period in 2012 when I missed four cuts in five events.
“It definitely thought it was a great year and when I played well, I played very well and won. But if I had an criticism about that year, I lacked a little bit of consistency.
“I am just trying to make my bad golf a little better and try and be more consistent and be able to compete on the weeks I don’t have my best game.
“So 2012 was a benchmark because anytime I got into contention, I was there or thereabout or I won, but I feel I’d like to try and got better than that.”
Favourite to win in Tucson where Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are notable absentees, he insisted that while he’s not yet thinking about Augusta, victories are always in his sights.
“After these three weeks I will be thinking about the Masters and getting ready for that but I guess here, at the Honda and Doral, it’s about trying to play well and I guess trying to get a win under your belt early on in the season,” he said.
This weeks’ event is the first of eight for McIlroy which will see him use a bag bearing the logo of his sponsor’s Bose in exchange for a contribution to the Rory McIlroy Foundation.
After the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac Championship, he plans to play the Shell Houston Open, the Masters, the Wells Fargo Championship, The Players Championship and the Memorial Tournament before auctioning off the bags for his Foundation.