McIlroy begins Augusta countdown with memories of '11: "I think about what could have been..."

McIlroy begins Augusta countdown with memories of '11: "I think about what could have been..."
Rory McIlroy speaks at Bay Hill

Rory McIlroy speaks at Bay Hill

Rory McIlroy had one of the worst days of his golfing life at Muirfield in 2013 so it's no surprise that the thought of returning there for another Open Championship does not fill him with glee.

Far from rejoicing at the Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers' decision to vote to admit women as members, thereby becoming part of the rota again, he used adjectives such as "ridiculous", "obscene" and "horrendous" to describe the vote.

"Muirfield wouldn't be one of my favourite Open rota courses, so no matter the decision yesterday, if it had been kept off The Open Championship rota, I wouldn't have been that unhappy," McIlroy said on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. "Obviously I was outspoken about this before whenever the vote went the first time around. 

"I mean, in this day and age, where you've got women that are like the leaders of certain industries and women that are heads of state and not to be able to join a golf course? I mean, it's obscene. Like it's ridiculous. So, they sort of saw sense. I still think that it got to the stage, this stage, is horrendous. 

"And yeah, I mean, we'll go back and we'll play The Open Championship, because they will let women members in, but every time I go to Muirfield now I won't have a great taste in my mouth."

Asked if it was obscene that 20 percent of that membership still voted no to women as members, McIlroy said:

"Yeah, I know, exactly. It's horrendous. I mean, I just don't, I don't get it. So, anyway, look, we'll go back there for The Open Championship at some point and I won't be having many cups of tea with the members afterwards."

McIlroy was expansive on his preparations for the Masters and the mistakes he made at Augusta National in 2011, when he had a four-shot lead going into the final round but shot 80 to finish ten shots behind Charl Schwartzel.

He certainly hasn't lost his sense of humour, as he showed when asked if Spieth would find it tough to get over last year's final round disaster at Augusta National's 12th.

"I'm sure when he opens his wardrobe and already sees a Green Jacket in there, I'm sure he can console himself. So, it happens. Everyone's had tough losses where things haven't went [sic] their way and it's just about getting back up on the horse and getting after it again. 
"I think once Jordan feels his first couple of holes -- I think once Jordan gets past the 12th hole in the first round this year, it will be over and done with. Same thing with me, once I got past the 10th hole in 2012 and the first round, I was, it was me, I was done. I looked over, I saw where I hit it, I had a bit of a laugh and then that was it. And it's done, it's over, you move forward and you don't think about it again."

McIlroy has spoken in depth about 2011 in past interview, but there has been little on his more recent, less glaringly obvious struggles at the Georgia venue.

"Yeah, of course, it did sting, of course," he said of shooting 80 as Charl Schwartzel surged past him to victory. "I mean, for me, I feel like my experience was a huge learning curve, a learning experience because I took everything from that day and made sure that whatever I did wrong I wasn't going to do that again. 
"Whether it was paying too much attention to the guys around me, paying attention to Charl Schwartzel getting off to a 3, 4, 2 start, stuff like that where -- and I guess as well one big thing that people don't quite remember, I played with Angel Cabrera that day and I feel like I'm a quick player and he was ridiculously quick. 
"And I never want to try to -- and I sort of learned this and it's hard to at times, but don't let other players dictate the pace that you play. Because that can have a detrimental effect as well. So there's a lot of learning stuff in there. But of course it hurt and it still hurts. Of course it does. But at the same time I've moved on and I've won Majors and I've made a pretty good career for myself since that. 
"But it still, I think back and think about what could have been and if that hadn't have went [sic] wrong I wouldn't have to answer the questions that I have to answer at this time of the year every year until I win one. 
"There's a lot of that stuff that goes through your head, but you learn from it, you move on and hopefully when I get myself in that position again at Augusta I'm going to do better."

Needing only the Masters to complete the "Career Grand Slam", McIlroy admitted that the task becomes more difficult each year.

"I sort of feel a little bit like what Phil goes through when he goes to the U.S. Open, but at the same time I haven't finished second at Augusta six times and he's finished second," he said. 
"So I can only imagine what goes through his head when he turns up at a U.S. Open. But, yeah, winning Augusta is difficult enough, but I think that's the most important thing, like you want to win the tournament that week, you just want to beat the guys that you're playing against and if you do that, you know that all this other great stuff comes along with it."

As for his preparations this year, which have been affected by missing seven weeks of the season with a rib injury, he said he's still got some catching up to do.

"Honestly, I think there's still a bit of ground to be made up. I wanted to play a heavy schedule going into Augusta I wanted to be really sharp, and I wanted to have played quite a few rounds competitively. I haven't been able to do that for that reason. I just haven't been able to physically. But I feel good now, and I didn't feel like there was any reason to alter my schedule because of what happened. I've played decent in Mexico, I've got a good opportunity this week to get myself in contention again and see where my game's at. The Match Play's a bit of a funny week, it's sort of at least you get three rounds of golf now and you can again see, assess where you're at. But I think I'm okay. I think by the end of these two weeks, I mean, I'm playing three of the next four weeks. I think by the time Augusta comes around I'll be happy with where I'm at."

Playing 27 holes at Augusta National last weekend didn't do any harm. He even won the bragging rights.

"I went up with my dad and a member there, Jimmy Dunn and a member of Seminole, Mike Sanger, and we just went up on a Saturday night, had some dinner, watched a bit of college basketball, teed it up on Sunday, played 27 straight and headed back to Florida. So, but it was good. It was. It was fun. Any time you get to play Augusta with your dad or anyone, it was a cool trip. I played those three guys played off the members tee, I played off the Masters tees and it was those three balls against mine. Flat match. And luckily I came out on top. So I'll let them hear that one for awhile."

He also saw the new media centre at Augusta National, which is reportedly out of this world.

"We were supposed to tee off early in the morning but the rain was coming in sideways, it wasn't a very nice morning. So J.J., the pro there, said, why don't I take you around and see this new media facility. And like I kept saying, do you realise what you've done here? These guys are not going to want to leave. You're going to want to cover Harbour Town next week from there. Just get a feed and like stay there. It's nuts. It's unbelievable. But it's sort of, they have turned that media facility into, it's a bit of a museum as well, there's so much cool memorabilia from the Masters and years gone by there, it's, if I wasn't playing in the thing I know where I would want to be hanging out that week."

Like tournament co-host, Graeme McDowell, McIlroy is happy to be able to pay tribute the late Arnold Palmer this week