Rory McIlroy does not usually play tournament golf the week before a major championship but he could make that a policy of the past should he flourish in Memphis at the St. Jude Classic starting on Thursday.
Having missed the cut in his last three tournaments worldwide, the 23-year-old decided to add the Memphis event to his PGA Tour schedule in a bid to sharpen his game for his title defence at next week's U.S. Open.
"Getting here and playing the course this morning, and seeing how excited people are just to have us here, I'm really happy to be here," Northern Irishman McIlroy told reporters on Wednesday after competing in the pro-am competition.
"I'm happy to get another competitive tournament in before next week. It'll be nice to turn around my form here this week and give myself a chance to win."
Asked whether it had been difficult for him to adjust to the unusual habit of competing the week before a major, world number two McIlroy replied: "No, not necessarily.
"If this week I play well and go into the U. S. Open feeling really good about my game and I play well there, it's something that I might do in the future.
"But the main thing this week is to just get some more competitive golf in... the last three tournaments I've played I've only played for two days and just haven't really felt like I've gotten into the tournaments."
An out-of-sorts McIlroy missed the cut at last week's Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio, after battling to a seven-over- par 79 in cold, wet and windy conditions in the second round.
Before that, he had failed to advance at the PGA Tour's elite Players Championship at Sawgrass, and also at the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship in Wentworth, England.
McIlroy did, however, benefit from an unexpected bonus following his missed cut at the Memorial tournament, as the extra time on his hands allowed him to take an early look at San Francisco's Olympic Club, venue for next week's U.S. Open.
"I went out and played a little at Olympic on Saturday evening, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday," McIlroy smiled.
"It was good to play a few rounds there and get a feel for the golf course.
"I did a lot of good work with my coach Michael Bannon right there in San Francisco. Even though it wasn't the way I wanted to spend the weekend, I still felt I got a lot out of it."
McIlroy is the only member of the world's top 10 competing this week at the TPC Southwind where the par-70 layout has been softened by rain earlier this week.
"It's playing good, but it's still a tough golf course, a tough layout," he said.
"In previous years it has played a little firmer. It's a par-70 and guys don't seem to go really low here.
"I feel like I'm hitting the ball pretty well," McIlroy said, referring to his form in Wednesday's pro-am.
"I made a few birdies out there and hit some good shots, so I'm looking forward to the next few days."
American Harrison Frazar defends the St. Jude Classic title he won last year in a sudden-death playoff with Sweden's Robert Karlsson.
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|Denis G. Rancourt|