McIlroy decides over lunch to play in Texas Open

Rory McIlroy never considered entering the Texas Open the week
before the Masters until caddie J.P. Fitzgerald suggested it.

McIlroy thought about it over lunch after his second round at
the Houston Open on Friday and sent Fitzgerald a text message
saying he thought it was a good idea.

”I ended up thinking to myself, OK, let’s just do for these
next couple of weeks what’s best for me,” said McIlroy, now No. 2
in the world after Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill. ”What’s best for
me right now is competitive golf and playing rounds.”

Last year, McIlroy missed two straight cuts and made a late
commitment to play in the St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S.
Open. He tied for seventh in Memphis, then missed the cut at The
Olympic Club.

He seemed encouraged after shooting a 71 at Redstone on Saturday
morning. But he’s only completed 11 competitive rounds this year
and agreed with Fitzgerald that he would benefit from another
tournament heading to Augusta.

”Everything feels good in my game,” he said. ”It’s just about
playing a bit more competitive golf and just getting a little
sharper. I just feel a little rusty out there, at times.”

The Houston Open was McIlroy’s first event since Doral, so he
wasn’t worried about wearing himself out before Masters week.

”The more golf you play, I guess, the more savvy you become,”
McIlroy said. ”I think it’s a good decision. I’m looking forward
to getting a few more rounds under our belt going into
Augusta.”

His commitment to San Antonio forced him to cancel a two-day
humanitarian trip to Haiti, where he was going to meet with
children and families affected by the 2010 earthquake there.
McIlroy is an Ireland ambassador to UNICEF and traveled to Haiti in
2011, before winning the U.S. Open at Congressional, his first
major championship.

McIlroy made ”a few tough phone calls” to organizers on Friday
night to inform them of his change in plans.

”UNICEF was great about it,” he said. ”I’m a big supporter of
what they do all over the world. Hopefully, I can make it up to
them in some way.”

He was 1-under par after two rounds in Houston, then holed a
33-foot birdie putt on his second hole Saturday morning. He added
two more birdies on the front nine then drove the green on the
338-yard 12th hole, a risky shot with a pond lining the right side
of the fairway.

But McIlroy felt confident with his driver all day, hitting 10
of 14 fairways.

”The shots are there,” he said. ”It’s just about committing
to them when I need to.”

McIlroy botched a chance to pick up another stroke at the par-5
13th, three-putting from nine feet. Errant tee shots on Nos. 14 and
18 cost him two more shots and left him at 2 under after three
rounds.

”I hit the ball really well, the best I’ve hit it on the course
this week,” McIlroy said. ”I’m very happy with the signs I’ve
seen.”

McIlroy said the focus on Sunday and in San Antonio is cutting
down mental mistakes.

”It’s all moving in the right direction,” he said. ”I
definitely feel like I played better (on Saturday) than the 71 on
the scorecard suggests. Even though it wasn’t my best round
scoring-wise, it was still a great one for me.”