Well outside the top 100 in the FedExCup race, Rory McIlroy will play next week to try and get on track. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas – Talk about playing your way to Augusta.
Every day Rory McIlroy’s game gets a little bit better. Every day he gets a little more confident.
Even after after he struggled on the back nine -- three bogeys in the last six holes, including one at 18 – he was upbeat. McIlroy’s 1-under 71 in the third round left him with far too steep a hill to climb to win Sunday – he was nine shots behind the leaders as they played late into the afternoon.
“Obviously not the finish I wanted,’’ he said. “ showed a lot of really positive signs out there, and I would love to take it forward into tomorrow and also into next week. Ultimately into the Masters in a couple weeks’ time.
“It's all moving in the right direction. I definitely feel like I played a lot better than the 71 on the scorecard suggests. So, you know, even though it wasn't my best round, scoring-wise, it was still a great one for me.’’
A top-10 at the Shell Houston Open would be nice. A win too, but that’s likely in his dreams here. And would mean he’d have to count on a myriad of mistakes from other people.
So, he thought Friday night, why not just head on over to San Antonio – 3 hours away – and get in some more competitive rounds before Augusta.
“Something I hadn't thought about until basically after I finished yesterday,” McIlroy said. “J.P. (Fitgerald, his caddie) was the one that mentioned it to me. Said, ‘If you just play a few more rounds, I think you're going to be ready.’ I didn't really think about it too much and sat down, had some lunch, started to think about it and I texted him and said, I don't think this is a bad idea. Probably took me an hour or two to sort of think about it and decide about.’’
The decision means he has to put off a UNICEF visit to Haiti, but, while it was important, so is the first major of the year. And he’s excited – not worried – about playing the week before a major.
“This is my 13th competitive round this year,’’ he said. “There's not any worry of burnout. No. I just feel like I'm playing well, I'm hitting the ball well. Everything feels good, my game. It's just about playing a bit more competitive course and getting a little sharper.
“I feel a little rusty out there at times. I think the more rounds I play, the better it will be for me going into Augusta.”
Overall, McIlroy played well tee-to-green.
“I drove the ball much better … I'm happy,’’ he said. “I had a putt on the 13th green to be 5-under par for the day. Obviously it wasn't meant to be.
“Made a couple of silly iron (shots) coming in, but, you know, I think with a bit more competitive play, one round here to go this week and hopefully four more rounds next week, I'll be ready. I'm very, very happy with the signs that I've seen.’’