McIlroy plans busy schedule leading to the Masters

Rory McIlroy. (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy. (Getty Images)

Augusta - Rory McIlroy took off the final three months of the year to heal his body and clear his mind, and he appears eager to get back to work.

With a series of announcements over the last week, McIlroy revealed what likely will be his most ambitious schedule ahead of Augusta National, in the 10 years he has been eligible for the Masters.

The most McIlroy has ever played before the Masters was seven tournaments - in 2009, the first year he was eligible for all four majors, and in 2016.

McIlroy, coming off his first winless year since 2008, will start the new season with two tournaments in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) before he embarks on a busy PGA Tour schedule.

He is playing the Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the first time, followed by the Genesis Open at Riviera and a third straight week at the Honda Classic.

Most peculiar about McIlroy's schedule is that he is skipping the World Golf Championship in Mexico City and instead will play the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook for the first time, and then play the following week at Bay Hill. He only listed his schedule through Bay Hill.

That's two tournaments he has never played, and three courses (two at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am) that he will have to learn. It also gives him seven tournaments, and it could be eight events if McIlroy enters the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas.

If he plays the Match Play, it would be three straight events, a week off, another three-week stretch of events, a week off, and then the Masters.

The Guardian is reporting that McIlroy's best mate, Harry Diamond, will remain as his caddie. McIlroy split with JP Fitzgerald after the Open Championship.

Meanwhile, Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world to play in the Indonesian Masters. He hopes it can lead to an invitation to that other Masters.

Snedeker is No 51 in the world, and this is the last tournament available for him to play.

The top 50 at the end of the year earn a spot in the field at Augusta National. Snedeker, who missed five months with a sternum injury, will have plenty of competition beyond Justin Rose.

Four other players have hopes to get into the top 50 - Satoshi Kodaira (No 50), Dylan Frittelli (No 55), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (No 56) and Yusaku Miyazato (No 58).

The Indonesian Masters may not be the last chance for everyone.

Kiradech last week won the Thongchai Jaidee Invitational on the Asian Development Tour, which offers minimal ranking points. That victory, however, makes him eligible for the final ADT event in Thailand called the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship. Depending on how he fares in Jakarta, if Kiradech wins in Thailand, he might get enough points to crack the top 50.

For those who don't make it, Augusta National also takes the top 50 in the world from the March 25 ranking two weeks before the Masters.

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