Rory McIlroy found his groove ahead of the Masters with a second place finish at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio on Sunday, which he says justified his late decision to enter the tournament.
Only a brilliant final day 63 from Scotsman Martin Laird, which booked his Augusta spot, denied McIlroy victory in Texas in a tournament he added to his schedule just 30 minutes before entries closed.
McIlroy finished in second spot, two strokes behind Laird on 12 under par, but admitted afterwards that his Sunday form en route to a 66 gave him a real confidence boost ahead of the first major of the season.
McIlroy, the world number two admitted, “Even though I didn’t get the trophy -- Martin was just too good today -- 63 in these conditions is just phenomenal.
“I’m really pleased with my game and I think this has been a great week for me.
“I am very happy, I have worked hard on just eliminating the stupid mistakes that I was making on the course, mental errors, and to finish off this tournament in the way I did today is great going into Augusta.
“Everything I wanted to accomplish this week, I accomplished. I’m very happy that I’m going into next week with my game in good shape and my confidence level pretty high.”
McIlroy, with just 26 putts on Sunday, is also delighted with his short game ahead of the testing times that await at Augusta.
He added, “I think it’s just about getting my short game as sharp as possible around there. I think everything else is pretty good.”
Padraig Harrington was one of three players to finish in a tie for 10th after a closing 70, with Offaly’s Shane Lowry tied 15th.
Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell is also relishing the first major of the season and plans to think his way around Augusta this week.
“Augusta used to be a red light for me but now it’s definitely amber with a promise of green,” he said.
“I have to be more aggressive at times. I probably played Augusta a little to conservatively in the past and I need to be more aggressive and trust the short game and putting, focus on getting up and down rather than worrying how I can take a double bogey out of the equation.”
Darren Clarke won’t be in Augusta after he was forced out of the Masters with a hamstring injury.
In other golf news, Irish amateur Stephanie Meadow was tied 39th behind winner Inbee Park at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on the LPGA Tour on Sunday.