Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, down to No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings, has been plotting his rise back to the top, and he gets his first chance to gain ground on No. 1 Jordan Spieth beginning Thursday.
McIlroy, who will play for the first time in 2016 this week in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, already has added the Northern Trust Open next month at Riviera in Los Angeles to his schedule because he has heard so much about the course. It will be the first appearance of his career on the West Coast Swing.
Last week, Rory officially committed to the Honda Classic to start the Florida Swing at the end of next month, and earlier he said he will play more in the first few months of the year in an effort to regain the No. 1 spot before he heads to the Masters to take a second shot tom complete the Career Grand Slam.
“This is an important first stop for me in the Florida Swing of events, and it’s a course that sets up well for my game,” said McIlroy, who won the Honda Classic in 2012.
“In such a strong field, there will be a lot of guys hungry to secure a win in the early part of the season, so I’ve every motivation to get off to a fast start.”
McIlroy already has fallen farther behind Spieth, who claimed a dominating eight-stroke victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the first PGA Tour event of 2016.
Spieth and McIlroy will have their first head-to-head meeting of the year this week in Abu Dhabi.
“I didn’t know he was playing,” Spieth told reporters jokingly last week. “I’ll probably withdraw now.”
After playing in Abu Dhabi for the first time, Spieth will play in the Singapore Open before returning to the PGA Tour in February for AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open.
Of course, that means another meeting with McIlroy.