McIlroy wants to fill Woods void - eyes green jacket
 Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in Dubai earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in Dubai earlier this year. Picture: Eoin Clarke

Rory McIlroy insists he's ready to step up and fill the power vacuum left by the injured Tiger Woods with a Masters win next week at the top of his agenda.

Speaking to the BBC's Iain Carter ahead of the Shell Houston Open today, McIlroy said: "Golf's in a funny place at the minute. Tou are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past with Tiger, Vijay (Singh) and Phil (Mickelson).

"I'd like to establish myself as that sort of player and someone's got to step up so I'm trying to be that person and it would be a great place to start next week."

Close to Woods, a near neighbour in Florida, McIlroy intimated that he was aware that Woods would miss the Masters because of his back problems but was surprised that surgery was required.

There has been much talk of Woods' beefed up frame and love of weight-training in the early season speculation about his health.

And McIlroy simply added fuel to that fire.

"There are obviously some weak points in his lower body and with how big he is in his upper body, there's obviously going to be something that has to take the strain.

"It seems like his lower back has been maybe working a little harder than it should have, to compensate for the surgeries he's had in his lower body.

The 24-year old Holywood, who led the Masters by four shots with a round to play in 2011 only to end up 15th behind Charl Schwartzel after an 80, is the bookies favourite for the Masters ahead of holder Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day (the latter pair are both struggling to shrug off injuries).

McIlroy is also the favourite in Texas this week ahead of Dustin Johnson — another Masters fancy — Henrik Stenson and Keegan Bradley.

Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington complete the Irish challenge this week. Harrington must win to seal a 15th successive appearance at Augusta National or hope he's handed a last gasp, special invitation.