Rory McIlroy tuning up for Masters, career Grand Slam bid at Valspar

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Rory McIlroy tuning up for Masters, career Grand Slam bid at Valspar

PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy tuning up for Masters, career Grand Slam bid at Valspar

PALM HARBOR, Fla. –  Rory McIlroy has struggled in three PGA Tour starts this season, but he’s always at the center of attention this time of year with the Masters just four weeks away.

Three players are vying for the career Grand Slam in 2018 and McIlroy is up first at Augusta National. Phil Mickelson, who won last week’s WGC-Mexico Championship, will try for the elusive U.S. Open title in June and Jordan Spieth has to wait for the PGA Championship in August.

“It’s bragging rights,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Valspar Championship.

McIlroy doesn’t have much to brag about since his runner-up finish at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January. He missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and finished T-59 at 9 over two weeks ago at the Honda Classic.

He’s playing the Valspar for the first time in his career and prepared in part by playing a few rounds at Augusta National last week.

“The golf course is in great shape,” McIlroy said. “They could have had the tournament in a couple of days’ time.”

If that were the case, McIlroy said he’d be ready to go.

“Totally ready,” McIlroy said. “I’d be happy to go to Augusta tomorrow and play and feel like I have a good chance, yeah.”

This week should help too, with Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course providing an Augusta-like test in some aspects.

“Especially with the second shots that you give yourself on this golf course, it sort of prepares you a little better than (when) you play some of the previous events,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy hasn’t won since the 2016 Tour Championship and is currently No. 12 in the Official World Golf Ranking, his worst ranking since 2010. But he’s still a huge draw and a huge part of the conversation, one which will only ramp up throughout the month of March leading up to the Masters.

“Golf is really healthy at this point,” McIlroy said. “The three of us looking for the (career Grand Slam), Tiger (Woods) coming back, Justin Thomas playing so well, (Dustin Johnson) being the No. 1 player in the World, Jon Rahm. It’s good. I’m glad to be in the conversation.”

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