By CHRIS DUNCAN, Associated Press
HUMBLE, Texas (AP) — Rory McIlroy never considered entering the Texas Open the week before the Masters until caddie J.P. Fitzgerald suggested it.
McIlroy thought about it over lunch after his second round at the Houston Open on Friday and sent Fitzgerald a text message saying he thought it was a good idea.
"I ended up thinking to myself, OK, let's just do for these next couple of weeks what's best for me," said McIlroy, now No. 2 in the world after Tiger Woods won at Bay Hill. "What's best for me right now is competitive golf and playing rounds."
Last year, McIlroy missed two straight cuts and made a late commitment to play in the St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open. He tied for seventh in Memphis, then missed the cut at The Olympic Club.
He seemed encouraged after shooting a 71 at Redstone on Saturday morning. But he's only completed 11 competitive rounds this year and agreed with Fitzgerald that he would benefit from another tournament heading to Augusta.
"Everything feels good in my game," he said. "It's just about playing a bit more competitive golf and just getting a little sharper. I just feel a little rusty out there, at times."
The Houston Open was McIlroy's first event since Doral, so he wasn't worried about wearing himself out before Masters week.
"The more golf you play, I guess, the more savvy you become," McIlroy said. "I think it's a good decision. I'm looking forward to getting a few more rounds under our belt going into Augusta."
His commitment to San Antonio forced him to cancel a two-day humanitarian trip to Haiti, where he was going to meet with children and families affected by the 2010 earthquake there. McIlroy is an Ireland ambassador to UNICEF and traveled to Haiti in 2011, before winning the U.S. Open at Congressional, his first major championship.
McIlroy made "a few tough phone calls" to organizers on Friday night to inform them of his change in plans.
"UNICEF was great about it," he said. "I'm a big supporter of what they do all over the world. Hopefully, I can make it up to them in some way."
He was 1-under par after two rounds in Houston, then holed a 33-foot birdie putt on his second hole Saturday morning. He added two more birdies on the front nine then drove the green on the 338-yard 12th hole, a risky shot with a pond lining the right side of the fairway.
But McIlroy felt confident with his driver all day, hitting 10 of 14 fairways.
"The shots are there," he said. "It's just about committing to them when I need to."
McIlroy botched a chance to pick up another stroke at the par-5 13th, three-putting from nine feet. Errant tee shots on Nos. 14 and 18 cost him two more shots and left him at 2 under after three rounds.
"I hit the ball really well, the best I've hit it on the course this week," McIlroy said. "I'm very happy with the signs I've seen."
McIlroy said the focus on Sunday and in San Antonio is cutting down mental mistakes.
"It's all moving in the right direction," he said. "I definitely feel like I played better (on Saturday) than the 71 on the scorecard suggests. Even though it wasn't my best round scoring-wise, it was still a great one for me."
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