McIlroy's Masters prep meant saying no to humanitarian trip

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, catches a ball while hitting on the driving range during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy feels that his last-minute decision to play in last weekend’s Valerio Texas Open has prepared him well for what he hopes will be a successful week at the Masters.

But he regrets that to get his game to this point, he had to cancel a scheduled humanitarian visit last week to Haiti as an ambassador for UNICEF.

“It was tough, because golf sometimes is a selfish sport, and sometimes you have to do what’s right for yourself,” McIlroy said Tuesday at his pre-Masters press conference.

“I know I was letting a lot of people down with my decision to go to San Antonio (for the Texas Open) but, at the end of the day, that’s what I needed to do to feel like I was ready for this week and this tournament. (But) I had to make a couple of tough phone calls.”

McIlroy, the 2012 PGA Tour player of the year who turns 24 next month, rose to No. 1 in the world last August after his win at the PGA Championship and stayed there until last month when he was overtaken by Tiger Woods. And that means more people want a piece of his time.

“You have to say no sometimes,” he said. “It was unfortunate I was in the position I was in a couple of weeks ago because I had to say no to something like that. I can say no to an interview or no to whatever but saying no to that is much more difficult.

“You’ve got to remember what got you to this position, which was practicing hard and putting the time in, and you really can’t let anything take away from that.”

McIlroy, who had gotten off to a slow start in 2013, shot 66 in Sunday’s final round and finished second at the Texas Open, two strokes behind champion Martin Laird. He said the fact that he was in the heat of competition in the final round bodes well for this week.

“I think a bonus was getting into contention and I felt like how I played when I got into contention was really pleasing,” he said. “I got a lot out of last week, and obviously bringing a nice bit of confidence here this week.”

McIlroy led the Masters after each of the first three rounds in 2011 but shot an 80 in the final round to drop to a 15th-place tie. He tied for 40th last year after carding rounds of 77 and 76 on the weekend.

Asked about whether the “demons” from 2011 are gone, McIlroy replied, “They were gone as soon as I got off the 18th green” that year.

“I have no ill memories of the place at all,” he said. “I absolutely adore the golf course.”

However, as much as he likes it, he feels anything less than a win would be a disappointment.

“Every time you come here, you’re wanting to win that green jacket,” he said, “and every time that you don’t, it’s another chance missed, I guess. If I’m sitting here on Sunday night and I’ve finished second or if I’ve given it a good run, you can’t be too disappointed because you’ve had a great tournament.

“But the ultimate goal is getting one of those jackets.”

McIlroy also said that his girlfriend, former Wimbledon tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki, will caddie for him in Wednesday’s Par-3 tournament.

--Joe Juliano