PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA | For Rory McIlroy, his first appearance in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am comes with both a practical and an emotional benefit.
McIlroy will spend the next three days – four if they play well enough – with his father, Gerry, who is his amateur partner at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. That’s reason enough to convince McIlroy to add the celebrity-speckled event to his PGA Tour schedule for the first time.
“It’s a tournament I’ve always watched and I’ve always thought one day it would be really cool to play with my dad and fortunately we were able to get him in,” McIlroy said.
That’s the personal side.
Then there’s the professional side.
McIlroy is coming off a disappointing 2017 season, which was undone by a nagging rib injury that late last summer had him counting the days until he could shut down his tournament golf. After an extended break, McIlroy has come out refreshed, finishing second and third in his two European Tour starts this year.
This will be the first of three consecutive Tour events for McIlroy, who will skip the WGC-Mexico Championship after playing on the Monterey Peninsula, the Genesis Open at Riviera and the Honda Classic near his south Florida home. He then will play the Valspar Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship to complete his run up to the Masters.
“Once I get to Augusta, one excuse I won’t have is not being prepared and being under-golfed leading up to it,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy hoped to play a similarly busy schedule last year until his rib injury cropped up early in the year. The decision to play Pebble Beach for the first time was helped by a change in the European Tour schedule. With a week between the Dubai event and Pebble Beach, McIlroy had time to get settled in the United States and head west.
The goal is simple – be ready for the Masters where he again will attempt to complete the career Grand Slam.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been underprepared but there might have been times where Augusta was my sixth event of the year and maybe in those previous five events I might not have gotten fully into contention or had a chance to win,” McIlroy said.
“The more I play, the more chance I’m going to give myself to be in that position.”