(Reuters) - One of Rory McIlroy’s lowest points during a frustrating 2013 campaign came at the Honda Classic in Florida but the Northern Irishman is looking forward to returning to “one of my favorite events” for this year’s edition.
McIlroy on Monday announced his intention to compete from February 27-March 2 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens where he won the tournament in 2012 after holding off a final-round charge from Tiger Woods to take over as world number one.
“I really can’t wait to get back to The Honda,” twice major winner McIlroy, now ranked seventh, said in a statement. “It is one of my favorite events of the year, and winning in 2012 was an important landmark in my career.
“Having a place in Palm Beach now also gives the tournament a kind of special feeling - nearly like a home event. Last year, admittedly, I had a tough week; a forgettable week.
“I guess I let frustrations get the better of me and perhaps should have adopted a more mature approach.”
Twelve months ago, McIlroy withdrew from the PGA Tour event after eight holes of his second round, initially saying he was in a “bad place mentally” and then later citing toothache.
His actions earned him widespread criticism by his peers, golfing great Jack Nicklaus saying the Northern Irishman had been wrong to walk off the course and that if he “had thought about it for five minutes, he wouldn’t have done it.”
McIlroy had clearly been frustrated by a poor start to his 2013 season, having played just four full professional rounds in three months.
He missed the cut at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship in January before suffering a surprise first-round exit at the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Over the past few months, however, McIlroy has been back to his best with a run of five top-10s in his last eight starts.
In November, he won the Australian Open by a stroke over Masters champion Adam Scott and three weeks ago he finished second in Abu Dhabi where a two-stroke penalty effectively cost him victory.
“I’m playing really well now, enjoying the game much more and I am looking forward to getting back to PGA National,” said McIlroy, 24. “You could nearly say that I have unfinished business to attend to this year at The Honda.
“I feel good about my game and feel like I’m back to the place that I want to be. I’m driving the ball well, hitting the ball solid and giving myself plenty of chances for birdies. If I can keep doing that, the wins will come.”
McIlroy will face a strong field at the Honda Classic where Australian world number two Scott, sixth-ranked American Zach Johnson and ninth-ranked Spaniard Sergio Garcia will also be competing.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg