FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 file photo, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland follows his ball on the 11th hole during 1st round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The road to the Masters starts on the other side of the country for Rory McIlroy. McIlroy has heard enough of Riviera that he decided to play the Northern Trust Open for the first time, and 27 holes over the last two days have left him convinced that it was a smart move and that it was worth it to add one more event to a busy schedule, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) For Rory McIlroy, the road to the Masters starts on the other side of the country.
McIlroy is playing the Northern Trust Open for the first time because of all he has heard about Riviera. It's the start of a big stretch. McIlroy is playing five of the next six weeks, and he is looking to regain his No. 1 ranking along with completing the career Grand Slam at Augusta.
McIlroy dropped back to No. 3 in the world ranking. The tournaments he is playing will be the strongest of the year to date. Jordan Spieth, the world No. 1, is at Riviera. In two weeks at Doral, the top three in the world – Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day – will play together for the first time since September.