Sitting out of the WGC-Mexico Championship last week might yet pay dividends for Rory McIlroy as he admitted he instead travelled to Augusta National for some early practice ahead of next month’s Masters.

It was not a week off for the world-number-12 as he took to Augusta to regain a feel for the course that is still denying him the career-grand-slam.

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“It’s been nice to have a week off and wind up at Augusta for a couple days and I had a good time up there,” McIlroy revealed.

“I actually played quite a bit of golf last week. It was my week off but I got a bit of practice and I’m a little more refreshed than the first three weeks of the year.

“Conditions were good, and I feel like every week they ramp it up. The golf course is in great shape. They could have had the tournament in a couple of days time.

“When we go up there at this time of the year it’s a little softer, little slower, and doesn’t really play like it does in the tournament but it’s still nice to go up there and play,” he continued.

“It’s good to re-familiarise yourself with it, and it was a nice trip. I’m totally ready. I’d be happy to go to Augusta tomorrow and play and feel like I have a good chance.”

After a three-month hiatus, McIlroy began 2018 in stellar form with a tied third and second in his first two starts. His form since then has been less than satisfactory, with a missed cut, tied 20th and tied 59th in his subsequent starts.

He’s now slipped to 12th in the world, his lowest ranking since late 2009, and despite the illustrious Masters title up for grabs again in April, the Northern-Irishman is focused on returning to form at the Valspar Championship this week.

He said: “I’m really just trying to prepare for each and every event and try to play that as well as I can and some guys have one eye on the golf tournament and one eye on a few weeks time.

“I can’t do that. I have to be 100 percent committed to what I’m playing right now.

“Right now my priority is the Valspar Championship, trying to win this tournament and trying to figure out a way to get myself around Innisbrook. That’s really what I’m trying to do. I feel if I do that, if I play well, then it’s more confidence and momentum that will help in a few weeks.”

McIlroy tees off at Innisbrook Golf Resort alongside Justin Rose and Gary Woodland at 07:45am local time today.