Tiger puts finger on Rory's task

Rory McIlroy reveals edgy text message from Tiger Woods.

Rory McIlroy is world No. 2 and is not bothered at the least by the demotion.

For most of the last year, McIlroy stood on the top of the golfing world and, for a while, put the name Tiger Woods in the rearview mirror. But that all ended Monday when his friend Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time and a 2013 PGA Tour event for the third time.

The win, Woods' 77th, not only has pushed McIlroy off a lofty perch as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but now the Ulsterman believes he has been relegated to the background with a cadre of others on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy texted his friend Tuesday morning to congratulate Woods on his win. Woods' response was chiding, but also pointed, as a friend will do.

“Just congratulated him and stuff as well, and he said everything was good there,” McIlroy said of his back-and-forth with Woods. “Told me to get my finger out of my (rear end) and win this week.“

McIlroy is playing this week at the Shell Houston Open in his final preparation for the Masters. Although his coach, Michael Bannon, is with him this week (as he was at Honda and Doral), the purpose is more for fine-tuning than an overhaul.

“You're going to have patches where you play great and have patches where you struggle a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I guess you just got to take the rough and the smooth and just try and treat those, I guess treat those times, sort of play and be patient and know that you're working on right things.”

As lost as he was before the Honda Classic, where he withdrew walking off the course in the middle of the second round, McIlroy is in a much better place.

It started with a 65 in the final round at Doral and continued as he hit balls last week at Miami Municipal — a public course in Key Biscayne, as he spent time with his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, who was playing in the Miami Masters.

“I brought my own balls with me,” McIlroy said of his practice sessions at Miami Municipal. “They collected them. They give me them again the next day. It was nice. The turf was OK. People left me alone.”

With his game is much better shape then it was at the beginning of March and with Woods now the hottest thing in golf, McIlroy can focus on actually competing with less media attention.

Well, the Ulsterman is still the favorite at 8-1 in Las Vegas to win this week in Houston.

“Getting into contention is the main goal,” McIlroy said of his trip to Houston. “Try to have a chance to win on Sunday so, then, you know, we'll go from there.”

“From there” is Augusta and while McIlroy will always be in the discussion for his first green jacket, many believe that Woods is the headliner in two weeks with everyone else the supporting cast. It's something that again McIlroy is not miffed about.

“I didn't think I could go into the Masters under the radar,” McIlroy said. “I can go in a little bit underneath him, so in a way it's not a bad thing.”

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