Rory McIlroy claims he is more relaxed than ever ahead of this year's Masters, after shedding "scar tissue" last time out.

The world number two returns to Augusta National a year on from a second-place finish, where he finished three strokes behind Scottie Scheffler.

McIlroy's result marked his best-ever return at the Masters, the only one of golf's four majors to elude him across his professional career.

With that performance in 2022 still in his mind, the Northern Irishman feels he can put the ghosts of past Masters to rest for good this time around.

"Not every experience is going to be a good experience," he said ahead of Thursday's first round. "I think that would lead to a pretty boring life.

"You have to learn from those challenges, and [the] scar tissue that has built up. Last year, I maybe shed some of that scar tissue and made a breakthrough.

"I feel like my game is in a pretty good place and I know [Augusta] just about as well as anyone. It's always great to be back at the Masters.

"The whole field has been building up to this point, [so it is] good to be back. I've been up here quite a bit in recent weeks.

"I've played 81 holes, so I've very familiar with the place again. I'm feeling as relaxed as I ever have coming in here."

McIlroy's performance in 2022, where he posted a sensational eight-under final round, saw him bounce back after he failed to make the cut in 2021.

Since then, the Northern Irishman reclaimed top spot on the PGA Tour rankings, though he has been displaced at the summit by Scheffler.

Jordan Spieth is looking to add a second green jacket to his collection, revealing the Masters inspired him to focus on golf.

A winner at Augusta in 2015, aged just 21, Spieth has been unable to secure a second victory at the event and is now braced for his 10th appearance there.

Having secured a triumph at that young age, a second Masters win seemed to be inevitable for Spieth, especially after he won the US Open in the same year, but he has so far fallen short.

In 2016, Spieth finished second and, since then, has had two third-place finishes, the most recent in 2021, all of which put Spieth within touching distance of the title he is desperate to get his hands on again.

It is not just the green jacket that drives Spieth, however, as he shared the personal significance the event has.

"I really fell in love with the game because of this tournament, back to Tiger [Woods'] chip-in to Phil [Mickelson's] first win," he said.

"These were kind of heroic moments when I was at an age where I was playing some other sports and loving golf, and it inspired me to really take up the game and see what kind of moments you can create, because the ball is always in your hands.

"Few things are as electric as those moments they had in sports. I wanted to create my own. From the moment I got here I was always very excited, and I wanted to learn it and fall in love with it. Just a lot of positivity.

"I didn't know what to expect and got off to a nice start my first year and tried to carry it on every year. Yeah, 10th appearance now feels crazy, and I hopefully can match some of those greats that played in how many over the years, I don't know what the record is.

"You guys probably know. It would be pretty special, but at the same time when you get opportunities at a young age and you feel good about your chances, I want to win it again.

"That's the goal. And was able to get a round in yesterday with my brother, which was really fun, and get to work today."

Cameron Smith believes it is crucial for the LIV Golf Invitational Series to have players capable of competing for the title at Augusta.

The Masters starts on Thursday, with the world's best players flocking to Georgia for the first major of the year.

That includes those still registered with the PGA Tour, and the LIV Golf rebels who joined the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway tournament.

Smith, who won The Open in 2022, was among them. The Australian heads into the Masters in sixth in the world rankings, making him the highest-ranked LIV Golf player.

But having any LIV Golf representative battling it out for the green jacket will mark a success for the tour, according to Smith.

"I think it's just important for LIV guys to be up there because I think we need to be up there," he told reporters while acknowledging the competition in the LIV events is not always as strong as those on the PGA Tour.

"I think there's a lot of chatter about 'these guys don't play real golf; these guys don't play real golf courses'.

"For sure, I'll be the first one to say, the fields aren't as strong. I'm the first one to say that.

"But we've still got a lot of guys up there that can play some really serious golf, and we compete against each other hard week-in and week-out and we're trying to do the same things that we did six months ago.

"It's nice. It's a good feeling to have that competition. I think we just need a good, strong finish."

Tiger Woods should be commended by every player on the PGA Tour for his efforts in fighting the LIV Golf Invitational Series, says Rory McIlroy.

World number two McIlroy has become the PGA Tour's de facto spokesperson over the past year, leading the charge against the Saudi-backed breakaway competition, which has lured some of golf's biggest names.

Woods, too, has stood by the PGA Tour.

Both McIlroy and Woods will be competing alongside some of the LIV Golf rebels at the Masters this week, with the latter back in action where he won the most recent of his 15 major titles back in 2019.

The pair have entered into a business venture – the TGL; the competition will feature 18 players, divided into six teams, competing over 18 holes on a virtual course. It will launch in 2024. 

For McIlroy, the experiences of the past 12 months have only strengthened his bond with Woods.

"I talk to him every day. That's the thing to me. I can remember the first time I met him, and how I felt," McIlroy told BBC Northern Ireland.

"To forge that relationship with him, and for him to really take an interest in what I do and take an interest in my game, my family and all that side of things.

"I'm unbelievably grateful for his friendship and his guidance but also his leadership through everything that's happened in the last 18 months as well.

"If anyone didn't need to do anything, it's Tiger Woods. But he stood up and tried to do what’s right for the game of golf and every single player on the PGA Tour needs to commend him on that."

McIlroy is confident TGL can be a hit with fans and players.

He added: "The business side of things with Tiger and I is amazing. I think TGL is a cool concept and hopefully we'll turn it into not just a cool concept but a cool entertainment project that people can get behind and really enjoy."

For now, the focus for McIlroy is on ending his nine-year wait for a fifth major title.

The 33-year-old has never won at Augusta, with his best finish coming in 2022, when he placed second behind Scottie Scheffler. 

Reflecting on what he could learn from Woods' approach at the Masters, McIlroy said: "The one thing he did really well at Augusta is just discipline.

"It [the course] can really goad you into taking in shots you don't need to take on. If you look at the two most successful players at Augusta, it's Tiger and Jack [Nicklaus].

"They're the two most successful players in the history of our game, so discipline, not taking on too much risk."

Woods has won the Masters five times in his storied career.

Corey Conners won the Valero Texas Open for the second time on Sunday, carding a bogey-free four-under 68 for a one-stroke victory ahead of rookie Sam Stevens.

The Canadian world number 40, who won at TPC San Antonio in 2019, had headed into the final day in second place behind Patrick Rodgers, who had five bogeys on Sunday to slip out of contention.

Conners was faultless, with birdies on the par-five second, followed by the sixth, ninth and 15th holes, opening up a three-shot lead upon the latter.

But Stevens stormed into contention with an eagle on the par-four 17th with a brilliant approach off the tee from 299 yards, before missing a nine-foot birdie putt on the 18th that may have forced a playoff.

Conners held his nerve with a three-foot putt for par on the last to secure victory, his second on the PGA Tour, both in San Antonio. The Canadian's next-best PGA result was a third-place finish at last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The final day surge of 26-year-old Stevens came off a six-under 66 that included five birdies and two eagles to finish at 14-under overall.

Stevens' runner-up finish comes a week after coming third at the Corales Puntacana Championship.

Sam Ryder (66 on Sunday) and Matt Kuchar (68) were tied for third at 13 under, with Rodgers ending up with a one-over final day 73 to fall back to 11 under.

Chez Reavie carded a seven-under 65 to finish tied for sixth at 10-under overall, while Rickie Fowler had a final day six-under 66 to end up eight under.

Tiger Woods was pictured practising at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday as he prepares to make his 25th start at the Masters.

Woods confirmed he planned to take part in all four majors in February, having played his first non-major PGA Tour event since October 2020 at that month's Genesis Invitational.

Having suffered serious injuries in a car crash in February 2021, Woods made his competitive return to golf at last year's edition of the Masters, finishing 47th after carding back-to-back 78s across the final two rounds.

Five-time Masters champion Woods – who last won the event in 2019 – played in three of 2022's four majors, most recently missing the cut at the 150th Open Championship in July.

Woods spent half an hour hitting balls at the practice range at Augusta on Sunday, having arrived at the course around 3pm local time.

Asked about the limited schedule he was looking to play back in February, Woods said: "My goal each and every year from here going forward is to play in all the majors.

"I'm not going to play too much more than that. My body – my leg, and my back – just won't allow me to play much more than that any more.

"That was my goal last year, and I was able to play three of the four. This year hopefully I can play all four. That is going to be my schedule going forward, because of all the limitations I have."

Patrick Rodgers struggled to match his first two rounds at the Valero Texas Open but nevertheless held his nerve to take a one-stoke lead at 12 under into the final day.

The 30-year-old had led overnight after play was halted early on Friday, following an impressive five-under 67 to back up an opening round of six-under 66.

But after carding a more sedate one-under 71 at TPC San Antonio, the American was left with just a single-stroke lead ahead of Canada's Corey Conners, who held on to second place with a three-under 69.

Veteran Matt Kuchar had looked set to challenge for top spot before a double bogey on the 18th derailed his pursuit, though he still finished in a respectable third, three shots off at nine-under for the tournament.

American duo Sam Stevens and Chris Kirk are tied for fourth at eight under, while South Korea's An Byeong-hun and Ireland's Padraig Harrington are among those in a six-way tie for sixth.

Rodgers is chasing a first win on the PGA Tour, having arrived in Texas with six missed cuts from his past eight starts, though he did secure a top-15 finish at the Phoenix Open.

At the conclusion of Friday's play at the Valero Texas Open it was Patrick Rodgers leading the field by three strokes, although many are yet to complete their second round.

Rodgers, 30, has never won on the PGA Tour, and has had an up-and-down season up until this point. While he has two top-10s, and a top-15 at the Phoenix Open, he also came into this event with six missed cuts from his past eight starts.

His six-under 66 was one of the best scores from the opening round, and he followed it with a five-under 67 after birdieing five of his last six holes to race out to a healthy lead.

In a tie for second is Canada's Corey Conners, who would be disappointed to shoot even par after his eight-under start. Joining him at eight under is Mexico's Roberto Diaz, who will have his sights set even higher as he was only through 10 holes in his second round before darkness halted play.

American duo Michael Thompson and Brendon Todd (through 15) are at seven under in a tie for fourth, while Belgium's Thomas Detry is joined by veteran Matt Kuchar and rising talent Eric Cole at six under.

Recent winner of The Honda Classic, Chris Kirk, is part of the logjam at five under rounding out the top 10, and Rickie Fowler has finished right on the projected cut-line at one under.

Justin Lower leads the Valero Texas Open through nine holes with play suspended due to darkness as Padraig Harrington and Matt Kuchar joined the group one stroke behind on Thursday.

The opening round was called off early in fading light, with play having been delayed numerous times in the morning due to fog in South Texas.

Lower, 33, got through the first half of his round, managing an eagle on the par-five 14th hole along with three birdies for a five under start.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, 51, wound back the clock in his 333rd start in his 28th season. The Irishman, playing in familiar conditions, carded a four-under 68 with six birdies.

Fellow veteran Matt Kuchar had a similar round with six birdies and two bogeys for a four-under 68 to be tied for second.

The 44-year-old American and Harrington are alongside South Africa's M.J. Daffue, Mexico's Roberto Diaz and USA's Patrick Rodgers.

Fresh from winning last week's Corales Puntacana Championship, Matt Wallace is in a group of eight players, including Canada's Corey Conners (through nine holes), one stroke behind at three under overall.

Pre-tournament favourite Tyrrell Hatton only got through 10 holes to be two under, while Rickie Fowler and defending champion J.J Spaun were both even after 11 holes.

Former Masters champions Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed do not expect any issues when LIV Golf International Series and PGA Tour players meet at the famous Augusta major.

Watson and Reed are among 17 LIV Golf stars set to feature at The Masters, with six of those rebel golfers automatically qualifying with a lifetime exemption after winning the tournament.

Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are also part of the breakaway league but able to play due to winning a major in the last five years.

Major competitions are the only place the two sets of golfers can feature after the PGA banned those who joined the Saudi-backed rebel series for record purses and 54-hole events.

But Reed, speaking ahead of the LIV Golf League event at Orlando that starts on Friday, does not foresee any animosity when the two groups tee off at the Augusta National Golf Course on April 6.

"It's one of those things, the media and the storylines are going to be obviously LIV versus PGA Tour and all that kind of stuff," 2018 Masters champion Reed said.

"But really the majors, that's all the guys that come in, top players in the world are going and playing against each other, no matter where they come from.

"It doesn't matter what tour they're on or anything; it's the top guys going and trying to play for one of the most coveted events in the world.

"For us, at least for myself, it's going to be business as usual going out and playing. Would I like to have LIV be up at the top? Of course.

"But really at the end of the day, it's all of us going in there and just trying to play the best golf we can and be ready for the four biggest weeks of the year."

Watson, a two-time Masters victor, echoed Reed's sentiment as the American reiterated the only issues between players are coming from media speculation.

"It's only awkward in the media," Watson said. "I've talked to people that are going to be there. I'm going to sign up with Jason Day and Cam Young in the par-three and some guys have already asked me to play some practice rounds.

"The media is the only one that is pushing it. I have nothing against anybody. If you change jobs, I'm not mad at you."

Koepka was another big-name superstar LIV managed to secure from the PGA and the four-time major winner says it would be a "big statement" for whoever wins in Georgia, regardless of allegiances.

"Anytime you win the Masters, it's going to be a big boost off the golf course for you," Koepka said. "I don't care who you are. Look at anybody that's won it, I guarantee they would say the same thing.

"I can't speak for what would happen because I don't know the future, but I'm assuming that would be a massive, massive boost for any team, player, individual, whatever, it doesn't matter what it is, it's going to be a big boost.

"Anytime you win The Masters or The Open, that's usually a pretty big statement."

Rory McIlroy is taking "tons of positives" from his performance at the WGC Match Play and feels his game is in good shape heading into next month's Masters.

The world number two finished third at Austin Country Club on Sunday after winning six out of his seven matches.

McIlroy suffered disappointment in his semi-final with Cameron Young, however, as he lost from two up with three to play as the contest went to a play-off.

Despite that collapse, and a chance to face eventual winner Sam Burns in the final, the Northern Irishman is pleased with his form heading into the opening major of the year.

"There are tons of positives to take away," he said. "If you had told me I would make it to the Sunday of the Match Play last week I would have taken that.

"I am maybe going to go up [to Augusta National] for a day and mess around. I went last week but don't think there is any harm in going up again and then it's about practice.

"I don't think there is tons to do. I think my game is in really good shape so just keep it ticking over, work on the shots I need for Augusta and away we go."

McIlroy, who defeated Scottie Scheffler to finish third, will now turn focus to landing victory at Augusta and becoming the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam.

He has landed seven top-10 finishes, but last year's second place is the closest McIlroy has come to adding to his PGA Championship, U.S. Open and Open Championship titles.

"I'm excited about how things are now compared to this time a couple weeks ago," McIlroy added. "I drove the ball a lot better this week and I felt pretty good with the putter.

"For the first week out I thought both ends of the bag worked pretty well. I don't think anything is in bad shape. I'll keep it ticking over and work on the shots I need for Augusta."

Sam Burns wiped the floor with Cameron Young to win the WGC Match Play final 6-5 on Sunday for his fifth PGA Tour victory.

Burns, who has all five of his wins since May 2021, first had to navigate his semi-final match-up against world number one and defending champion Scottie Scheffler, who was trying to become the first player to ever reach the final of this event in three straight seasons.

It looked like Burns' day from the jump as he flew out to a 3up lead through three holes, but Scheffler came roaring back by winning the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th to carry a 2up lead of his own into the back-nine.

The seesawing contest saw Burns take the 13th and 15th to tie it up, and he pulled ahead with a birdie on 17, before Scheffler responded with a birdie on 18 to take it to extra holes.

Both players birdied the first extra hole and both banked pars on the second, before Burns punched his ticket to the final with a birdie on the third sudden-death hole.

The bracket was set up for Scheffler and Rory McIlroy to meet, and they did, but only for the third-place play-off after McIlroy also fell in a sudden-death loss to Young.

Young needed to win the 18th hole to tie things up, and he did so with a birdie, which he followed with a birdie on the extra hole to advance.

Burns made sure the final was far less competitive, dropping eight birdies over the course of 10 holes to race away to a dominant victory.

In the third-place playoff, McIlroy took the lead on the first hole and maintained the advantage throughout, and when Scheffler birdied the 12th to try and tie things up, McIlroy responded with an eagle to instead go 2up and take the 2-1 win.

Matt Wallace finally made his PGA Tour breakthrough on Sunday after surging to the top of the leaderboard and securing the Corales Puntacana Championship.

Wallace had threatened to become a winner on the tour for years, with a T7 finish earlier this month at the Valspar Championship marking his fifth season in a row with at least one top 10.

He was one of the form players in the world back in 2018, winning four European Tour events over the course of 17 months, and he parlayed that form into a top-three finish at the PGA Championship and a top-12 result at the U.S. Open in his next start.

The Englishman had actually endured a rocky start to this season, making just two of his previous eight cuts heading into the event in the Dominican Republic, but he excelled at the picturesque Puntacana Resort's Corales Golf Course.

Wallace posted rounds of 67, 66 and 70 before closing with a six-under 66, rattling off four birdies in a row starting on the 13th hole to go from two behind to two ahead. In the process he tied for Sunday's round of the day, finishing with a winning score of 19 under.

Impressive 22-year-old Danish talent Nicolai Hojgaard finished alone in second place at 18 under, birdieing the 17th to pull to within one, before missing a birdie putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff. American duo Sam Stevens and Tyler Duncan rounded out the top three, tied at 17 under.

The win means Wallace will leap up from 108th in the FedEx Cup standings into the top 50, while Wyndham Clark rose to 35th with his solo sixth finish, and Belgium's Thomas Detry's tie for eighth dropped him from 28th to 30th.

Nicolai Hojgaard and Sam Stevens are tied for the lead at 14 under after three rounds of the Corales Puntacana Championship, although it is wide open going into Sunday.

Only two players shot better than Hojgaard's six-under 66 on Saturday, and it came after a terrific 65 on Friday as the 22-year-old two-time European Tour winner looks to break through.

Stevens, 26, is also winless on the PGA Tour, and he blew an opportunity to head into the final round in the outright lead as he bogeyed the 18th.

There is a four-man chasing group on their tail at 13 under, with Americans Wyndham Clark and Tyler Duncan joined by Belgium's Thomas Detry and England's Matt Wallace.

Detry's seven-under 65 was tied for the round of the day with France's Martin Trainer, who used it to fly up into the top-10, now tied for seventh at 12 under.

The 2018 champion at this event Brice Garnett is alone in 10th at 10 under, and last year's runner-up Ben Martin is one further back at nine under.

Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are one win away from meeting in the WGC Match Play final after both advancing into the last four on Saturday.

In the first of four elimination rounds among the 16 group winners, Scheffler was matched up with J.T. Poston, and after trailing throughout the back-nine he won both the 17th and 18th to sneak by with a 1up victory.

He would meet the in-form Jason Day for a spot in the semi-finals after Day took a 1up win over Matt Kuchar, and after Day went 3up on the front-nine, Scheffler won five of the next eight holes to secure a 2 and 1 win.

Meanwhile, McIlroy started his day with a 2up triumph over Lucas Herbert, leading all the way, and he followed it with a hard-fought 1up win against Xander Schauffele, where he did not take his first lead until the final hole.

Scheffler will meet Sam Burns in the final four after Burns upset Patrick Cantlay 2 and 1, and then proved too good for Mackenzie Hughes in a 3 and 2 result.

McIlroy will have to navigate the challenge of Cameron Young to reach the final after his dominant 5 and 4 win over 2021 champion Billy Horschel, following it up with a 1up result against recent Arnold Palmer Invitational champion Kurt Kitayama.

With one more win Scheffler can become the first player in the history of the event – dating back to 1999 – to reach the final in three consecutive seasons, after winning in 2022 and finishing runner-up in 2021.

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