Rory McIlroy looking forward to AT&T Pebble Beach debut
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Rory McIlroy initially had 2019 as the year he would finally play the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. His figured it would make a good 60th birthday present for his dad Gerry, who could join him as his amateur partner. The present arrived a year early. McIlroy is making his tournament debut this week, and his dad -- a 5 handicapper -- will indeed be by his side. It's not the first time the two have played as a team -- they've made several appearances on the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, including last October when they failed to qualify for the final round -- but the appearance at Pebble Beach will be a special one. "It's going to be a really cool week for both of us," McIlroy said. "… It will be a nice experience to hopefully play four rounds of golf with him. Obviously, first thing is to try and make the cut so he can play on Sunday." Rory said his dad has been practicing at Seminole Golf Club in South Florida for the last two months and has looked "pretty good." The Dunhill Links appearances in Scotland has given them a taste for this kind of pro-am environment, so Rory doesn't expect much difference this week other than the "weather's a little nicer here." (Well, at least it is this week, with no rain in the forecast.) The last time McIlroy played a PGA TOUR event was in the FedExCup Playoffs last season, when he finished T-58 at the BMW Championship and failed to advance to the TOUR Championship, where he would've been the defending champ. He's made four European Tour starts since then, with three top-3 finishes along with a T-63 at the Dunhill Links (helping to explain to some degree why he and his dad failed to make the team cut). His last two starts was a T-3 in Abu Dhabi followed by a solo second in Dubai. While he didn't win, he said the confidence gained after being away from tournament golf during his four-month break was valuable. "I was really happy flying away from Dubai after those two weeks," he said. Adding the AT&T Pebble Beach to his schedule this season wasn't simply determined solely by his dad's participation. McIlroy plays the European Tour's two Middle East events starting in late January, but those tournaments were moved up a week earlier than usual, allowing McIlroy a one-week breather at his Florida home before flying to California. In addition, McIlroy wants to ramp up his playing schedule after making just 18 worldwide starts in 2017, his fewest of any calendar year in a decade. After a winless campaign, McIlroy wants to make sure rust is not a factor going forward. "Not really making up for lost time but just missed playing, missed playing competitive golf," said McIlroy, who has played Pebble Beach before -- at the 2010 U.S. Open when he missed the cut. "And I feel like there's nothing in my way, there's nothing stopping me from playing a pretty full schedule." McIlroy has added another new tournament in the Valspar Championship, which he said will replace the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship on his schedule this season. He thinks the set-up will serve him well going into the Masters in April, when he'll once again try to complete the career Grand Slam. "Once I get to Augusta, one excuse I won't have is not being prepared and being under-golfed," he said. "I'll have played a lot of tournament golf leading up to it. … "I don't think anyone has ever found the perfect schedule. I don't think that exists. It's all about how you're feeling at that given point and that given time. Right now I feel like playing a lot of golf -- and that's what I'm going to do."
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