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McIlroy fine-tunes game ahead of Masters

The Northern Irish golfer heads a strong international field in the Texas Open

Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the pro-am at the Texas Open golf tournament.
Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the pro-am at the Texas Open golf tournament.

WITH THE SEASON’S first major just around the corner Rory McIlroy figured that adding the Texas Open to his schedule would be the best way to help him polish his game.

“I feel like all the components of my game are there,” McIlroy said. “It is just a matter of putting it all together.”

McIlroy heads a strong international field in the Texas Open which will try to snap an American win streak on the PGA Tour which dates back to October 2012.

This marks the first time that the Texas Open will serve as the final Masters tune-up with the winner getting a free pass into Augusta.

Last Friday, the tournament got some added firepower when Northern Ireland’s McIlroy decided to join the field which now features eight former major winners and four of the top 15 in the world.

“The big thing is course management,” McIlroy said. “Leaving my ball on the right side of the pins when I am going into the greens and if I miss the greens trying to get it up and down.

“Those are all the things I will face next week at Augusta. You’ve got to know when to not take on pins. Augusta is a little more generous off the tee than it is here but that is a good thing.”

The strong field also includes Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, David Duval and defending champion Ben Curtis.

McIlroy is in a group that also comprises Kuchar and 19-year-old American Jordan Spieth.

Kuchar comes into the week with a win and two other top ten finishes. Spieth has split his season between the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour but played well in Puerto Rico where he finished second.

Curtis held off Matt Every and John Huh to collect his fourth PGA Tour title despite going one-over par over the last two rounds in 2012.

He began the tournament with consecutive 67s to reach 10-under par before hanging on to earn his first win in six years.

Prior to that victory, Curtis had missed the cut in two of his three PGA Tour starts.

This year he has missed the cut in every start, including the Houston Open last week.

“I am just glad to be back here,” Curtis said. “It’s always nice to come back where you’ve played well in the past.

“I haven’t played great this year. I’ve had a couple of decent finishes, but just trying to get the snow off from home.

“But it’s coming around. I’m liking the way things are progressing.”

Curtis is hoping to keep a US win streak alive this week. Americans have won all 14 PGA Tour events since the start of the season and 16 overall dating back to the Frys.com Open on October 14 when Sweden’s Jonas Blixt triumphed.

It’s the longest US win streak since 2006 when they won 17 in a row.

This is the first time the Texas Open will be the final tune-up for The Masters which is being played a week later than last year.

Other notable groups include, Poulter-Schwartzel-Jim Furyk. This is the first trip to San Antonio for Poulter and Schwartzel, while Furyk is making his first appearance in nearly 20 years.

Curtis is joined by Justin Leonard and 2011 winner Brendan Steele. Leonard is the all-time money winner in the event, having won three times.

- © AFP, 2013

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