HUMBLE, Texas — Once the frost thawed, Rory McIlroy was back at work Wednesday morning trying to find a swing he could trust and repeat.
McIlroy hasn’t looked anything like the No. 1 player in golf this year, and now he’s not. That spot belongs to Tiger Woods again after winning for the third time in two months to establish himself as the favorite going into the Masters.
None of this bothers McIlroy.
He is more concerned with the path of his swing than the mathematical average of his ranking. He wants to win whenever he plays, though there is pragmatic side to the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland. He still hasn’t made the cut against a full field this year.
That makes the Houston Open more than just a final tuneup for the first major of the year. It’s a place to measure progress.
“I want to get back to getting into contention in tournaments and trying to win,” McIlroy said. “I think this is a good week to try and get into contention, have a chance with the Masters coming up. I’m just really focused on this week in Houston and trying to play well here.”
McIlroy is part of a strong field at the Houston Open, where the tournament tries to give players a taste of what they might see in two weeks. The greens are fast and pure, with several closely mown collection areas that allow for a variety of shots around the green.
The Houston Open thought it was getting the No. 1 player in the world when McIlroy signed up to play Redstone Golf Club in January. It still has five of the top 10 players, including Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker, Louis Oosthuizen and Steve Stricker.
And it has Phil Mickelson, who likes Houston so much that he would rather be here than his usual schedule of playing the week before the Masters. Because the Masters is a week later than usual based on the calendar — it always ends on the second Sunday of April — the Texas Open was given the spot a week before Augusta.