Masters in mind for McIlroy on Riviera debut

Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:46pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy says he is excited about his Northern Trust Open debut this week at Riviera Country Club as he starts his tournament build-up in the United States for the Masters in April.

While the opening major championship of the year will be firmly in his mind over the next two months, McIlroy has long desired to compete at Riviera, which is consistently ranked by the players as one of the top courses on the PGA Tour.

"I wanted to come here because of what I had seen on TV, and the great things that people say about Riviera," world number three McIlroy, 26, told reporters on Wednesday after playing in the pre-tournament pro-am competition.

"And this was the perfect timing. I had a week off after all the stuff I did in the Middle East (on the European Tour), and that gave me time to sort of regroup and get myself over to the West Coast. It just fitted into the schedule."

The iconic par-71 layout at Riviera is a ball-striker's paradise where long, medium and short hitters can all thrive.

"It's a real treat when you come to a golf course like this where it's not overly long, you don't have to really bomb it off the tee, but it's real strategic," said McIlroy, a four-times major winner.

"It's a real thinker's golf course and it's a real treat to play something like this because we don't get to play them that often anymore."

McIlroy will be making his first PGA Tour appearance of the year this week after recording top-six finishes in his last three events on the European Tour dating back to November -- all three of them in the United Arab Emirates.   Continued...

Golf - Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship - Abu Dhabi Golf Club, United Arab Emirates - 24/1/16
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy celebrates his eagle at the 18th hole during the final round
Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs