Rory McIlroy has high hopes in his first Valspar Championship

Rory McIlroy plays a shot out of a bunker during the Honda Classic in February at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. [Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images]
Rory McIlroy plays a shot out of a bunker during the Honda Classic in February at PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. [Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images]
Published March 6
Updated March 6

PALM HARBOR — Rory McIlroy made his first trip around the Copperhead Course on Tuesday. He played by himself in the morning with his caddie and his longtime coach, Michael Bannon. McIlroy, who is currently ranked 12th in the official world golf rankings, has never played the Valspar Championship before, although he has watched it on television.

"It was a good first look at it,'' McIlroy said. "I thought I sort of knew it from TV, but it's good to get 18 holes in. Then another 18 holes (in the Pro-Am), so I'll get two good looks at it. Course is in great shape. It's a positional golf course. It's all about where you put it off the tee.''

McIlroy, 28, has won four major championships and 13 times overall on the PGA Tour. The only major he hasn't won is the Masters, which is a month away. This season he is coming off a rib injury that sidelined him for the final three months of 2017. He also revealed in January that he has a heart defect that needs attention but will not slow him down.

In three PGA events this year, McIlroy missed the cut at Pebble Beach, finished tied for 20th at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles and tied for 59th two weeks ago at the Honda Classic. Even though he has never played at Innisbrook, don't rule him out this week.

"The last three tournaments haven't been the best results, but what I'm doing with my game feels really good,'' McIlroy said. "We're just trying to translate that onto the golf course. I've had a few chances to win in the Middle East, and I'll have three tournaments until Augusta. Hopefully I'll get myself in contention to win.''

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