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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida (Reuters) - World number one Rory McIlroy gave himself three tournaments to get in optimum form for the Masters in April but the first one ended in disappointment as he missed the cut at the Honda Classic.
McIlroy shot 73 and 74 in his two rounds on the Champion Course leaving him seven over par, well outside the cut-line which will be implemented after rain-delayed second rounds are completed on Saturday.
A missed cut for the top player in the world is an embarrassment but given the conditions, particularly the tricky winds, McIlroy did not seem overly concerned with his form.
"I guess I don't feel like I controlled my ball flight well at all, which you need to in the wind," said McIlroy, who had not played since his win in Dubai on February 1.
"The last three weeks, I haven't really practiced in many crosswinds. I felt like I struggled in crosswinds out there," he said.
Now the 25-year-old will turn his focus to next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship which, with a limited field of the world's top 50 players, guarantees every player four rounds.
After that tournament at Doral, McIlroy has only the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 19 to fine tune his play before an attempt at a 'career grand slam' at the Masters.
"I'm not really thinking of Augusta. I'm thinking of next week and just trying to play four solid rounds," said McIlroy, who has won a U.S. Open, a British Open and two PGA Championships.
"Hopefully we don't have to contend with conditions like they were this week. It has been really good on the range the last couple weeks and it's been good in practice. Just wasn't so good over the last couple days," he said.
If there was any real self-criticism from McIlroy, it focused on his lack of aggression at the Honda Classic
"Usually I'm good at taking it from the range to the course. That's never really been a problem with me," he said. "But this week, it was funny, it felt like the first tournament of the season when I've actually played two events.
"I felt yesterday maybe a little tentative, just maybe trying to ease my way into the round a little bit and not really being that aggressive. That's why it's nice to have four rounds next week to try and put that right."
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Gene Cherry