Rory McIlroy: Four-week layoff after missed cut in Abu Dhabi was a mistake

Scott Halleran

Rory McIlroy will get in at least two more pre-Masters competitive rounds in this week’s Valero Texas Open but concedes he was wrong to take so much time off after his humbling missed cut in the 2013 season-opening Abu Dhabi Championship.

After a water-logged, 2-under final round at the Shell Houston Open, in which the world’s former No. 1 player rinsed four balls and carded a 4-under for the week, McIlroy acknowledged he needed more competitive action to work his game into shape ahead of the upcoming Masters.

“I might have played one more event in the Middle East, not taken that four-week break after Abu Dhabi,” McIlroy, who Sunday night posed with Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, told reporters earlier in the day. Miami was in San Antonio to take on the Spurs.

The tilt McIlroy referred to, according to Bernie McGuire, was the Dubai Desert Classic, a European Tour event that took place two weeks after he posted dual 75s in Abu Dhabi and before he lost in the opening round of February’s WGC-Match Play Championship and quit the Honda Classic midway through the second round. It was also, in 2009, the first contest he won as a professional.

The two-time major champion hoped that adding this week’s PGA Tour challenge to his sparse schedule would help him contend in Augusta.

“Obviously, you lose in the first round of the match play, you play a round-and-half at the Honda, you haven’t played much golf,” McIlroy observed. “Course management is a big thing, not short-siding myself, hitting it fat into the greens when you need to, giving yourself a bit more margin for errors.

“Limit mistakes like making bogeys from the middle of the fairway,” he added. “If I can just keep those off my card, then I’ll be in great shape.”

Despite a lackluster week in Houston, where he ended up 12 strokes behind winner D.A. Points’ 16-under total, and several times rued his “stupid errors,” McIlroy’s theme sounded a bit like that old, “Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln...” joke.

“I made a few mistakes, hit four balls in the hazards. Apart from that, it was pretty solid,” McIlroy said. “I feel like my short game is sharp and I putted it pretty nice, so it wasn’t too bad. Just, again, if I can limit those sloppy mistakes, I’ll be fine.”

McIlroy, who would retake the No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods with a win this week, decided over lunch on Sunday to add the San Antonio event and postpone his slated trip to Haiti to meet with survivors of the 2010 earthquake.

“I need to go and just -- I'm there to play competitive golf. If it was a par-3 course, I would go and play it just because that's what I need,” said McIlroy, who Sunday credited his caddie with convincing him to tee it up in the last tilt before the Masters. “I need competitive golf and I need committing to targets, and it doesn't matter if it's a short course or long course or wide course or whatever. As long as I have that and I have a scorecard in my hand, that's what I need.”

More reps, to paraphrase his good friend Tiger, should take care of everything, McIlroy claimed.

“I think just four more competitive rounds will do me do me a world of good next week,” he said. “I'll be in good shape going into the first major of the year.”

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