McIlroy has made ‘good strides forward’

Rory McIlroy

A four-over-par final round cost Rory McIlroy a chance of winning the Northern Trust Open in California

World number three Rory McIlroy believes he has made “good strides forward” before the Honda Classic in Florida, which starts on Thursday.

This season the Northern Irishman has come third in Abu Dhabi, sixth in Dubai and 20th in the Northern Trust Open.

“I feel like I am playing well, so it’s going out there and doing it when it matters,” he said.

He has been paired with holder Padraig Harrington and Open champion Zach Johnson for the first two rounds.

McIlroy, who has won four majors, won the tournament at PGA National in 2012 to become world number one for the first time.

But the following year he walked off the course, telling reporters he was in “a bad place mentally” and then issuing a statement citing severe toothache as the reason for withdrawing.

The 26-year-old lost in a play-off in 2014 and missed the cut last year.

“It’s exciting to be back here,” he said. “I’ve had some good performances here in the past and it’s a bit of a home game for me this week, only living a couple of minutes down the road.

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