Rory McIlroy returning to form but feels pre-Masters win isn’t vital

Rory McIlroy feels he is not far away from a return to the winner’s circle, but does not believe it is essential to get a victory before the Masters.

The Northern Irishman heads to the Honda Classic without a victory since September 2016 – the longest winless run of his professional career – to play a course which has brought out the best and worst of the four-time major champion.

McIlroy moved to world No 1 for the first time with victory in Florida in 2012 and lost out in a play-off two years later, but experienced back-to-back missed cuts in his past two visits in 2015 and 2016.

The 28-year-old ended tied-20th at the Genesis Open to follow two top-three finishes on the European Tour, with McIlroy pleased with his game as he continues his build-up to Augusta.

“Obviously last year Sergio (Garcia) had won a tournament beforehand, Danny Willett the year before had won a tournament, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” McIlroy told the media on Wednesday.

“To get a win under your belt going into it does make you feel a bit better but you don’t have to. I feel like that’s putting yourself under an awful lot of pressure.

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“I’m close. I think positive thoughts and I’m very happy with where my game’s at. I feel like I’m just waiting for everything to sort of fit together. I feel like I’ve seen enough good things in my game over the past few weeks to know that it’s not far away.”

McIlroy tees off alongside Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott for the first two rounds, with the world No 10 aware of the challenges that the par-70 layout at PGA National offers.

“Feast or famine – that’s what my history’s been here,” McIlroy added. “It’s a tough golf course and it magnifies if your game’s off just a touch.

“If you miss it by tiny margins here it can punish you quite heavily. But if you’re on, it gives you opportunities to score and that’s what’s happened.”

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Watch the Honda Classic throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event.