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Golf This Week: World No. 1 up for grabs again

Rory McIlroy

Wilfredo Lee/AP

HUMBLE, Texas - Rory McIlroy sent a text message to Tiger Woods on Tuesday, congratulating him on winning at Bay Hill and taking over the No. 1 world ranking again.

Woods responded by telling McIlroy to get going — he put it a bit more crudely than that — and win this week's Houston Open. A victory would put McIlroy back at No. 1, a spot he held for 32 weeks before Woods' latest win.

For now, McIlroy is fine with Woods holding the world's top ranking, especially with the Masters coming up in two weeks.

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"I didn't think I could go into the Masters under the radar," McIlroy said. "I can go in a little bit underneath him. So, in a way, it's not a bad thing."

McIlroy skipped Bay Hill and says he had a "good week, a fun week" in Miami. He watched girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play in the pro tennis event in Key Biscayne, Fla., then stopped by a municipal course on Saturday night to hit range balls in relative anonymity with Wozniacki and Novak Djokovic, currently the world's No. 1 tennis player.

"People left me alone, it was fine," McIlroy said. "It's nice to just go, not just go about my business and no one cares, but you go about it and not be, I guess, the most talked about person in golf. It's a nice thing."

McIlroy won four times in 2012, including the PGA Championship that catapulted him to No. 1. He signed a Nike contract in the off-season, but has gotten off to a rough start this year, raising questions about his adjustment to his new equipment.

He missed the cut at Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship and then walked off the course during the second round of the Honda Classic, citing frustration. He finally saw signs of progress when he shot a 65 in the final round at Doral and tied for eighth, and he's confident that he's ready to contend at Redstone this week.

"We're not machines, we're humans," McIlroy said. "You're going to have patches where you play great and have patches where you struggle a little bit. I guess you've just got to take the rough and the smooth and just try and treat those times, sort of play and be patient and know that you're working on the right things."

Maybe McIlroy can learn from Woods as he tries to dig out of his early-season slump. Woods has won three times in five starts this year, looking as dominant as ever after going through injuries, personal turmoil and a swing change.

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"I've always said he's been one of the greatest fighters on a golf course," McIlroy said. "If things aren't going his way, he'll dig in and get whatever he can out of a round. He can repeat day-in, day-out, that attitude and that single-mindedness or that drive or motivation, I think that's his most impressive aspect."

When he's done in Houston, McIlroy will fly to Haiti, where he'll meet with families affected by the 2010 earthquake there. He also made a trip to Haiti before going to the U.S. Open in 2011, and won his first major at Congressional with a record score.

McIlroy is an Ireland ambassador to UNICEF and has geared his own charity work toward children.



COURSE: Redstone Golf Club, Tournament Course (7,441 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $6.2 million. Winner's share: $1,116,000.

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TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; Saturday, 1-3 p.m., 6:30-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1-3 p.m., 6:30 p.m.-midnight) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).

CANADIAN CONTENT: Graham DeLaet, Brad Fritsch, David Hearn

NOTES: Canadian Mike Weir was forced to withdraw after suffering torn cartilage in his rib area during last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational. ...Rory McIlroy, who surrendered the No. 1 world ranking to Tiger Woods on Monday, can regain top spot with a win this weekend. ...2011 winner Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson are also in the field. ...Snedeker is coming off a missed cut last week at Bay Hill after sitting out five weeks due to a rib injury. ...Mickelson, who also missed the cut last week, has a streak of 10 consecutive rounds under par at Redstone. ...Bradley is coming off his third top five result in nine starts, a tie for third, which was his best finish since last year's PGA Championship. ...Oosthuizen, runner-up last year at Augusta after losing a playoff to Bubba Watson, has missed two of three cuts on U.S. soil this year and tied for 33rd at Doral, where they don't have a cut. ...Jordan Spieth makes his first start since earning special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. ...This is the first time since the FedEx Cup was instituted that the Shell Houston Open is not the final tournament before the Masters. It switched places with next week's Valero Texas Open, which has an agreement with the PGA Tour that it not finish on Easter Sunday, which is this coming weekend. Despite the switch, the Redstone course will be set up to mimic that of Augusta National as many players are using this event as their final tune-up to the first major. ...This is the final week for players not already in the Masters to qualify via the top 50 in the world ranking. Geoff Ogilvy currently sits 50th in the rankings and is in the field. South African Richard Sterne, No. 48 in the world, is not in the field. Henrik Stenson (No. 53) is among those on the outside entering the event while Charles Howell III (No. 57) and Luke Guthrie (No. 58) are longshots to move into the top 50, short of winning this weekend.



COURSE: Golf du Palais Royal (6,844 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $1.93 million. Winner's share: $321,810.

TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.).

NOTES: The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Palais Royal course sits inside the walls of the Royal Palace of Agadir. Other than the tournament, the course is used only by King Mohammed VI and his guests. ...Francesco Molinari is the highest ranked golfer in the field at No. 39 in the world.



COURSE: Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai, Chiangmai, Thailand (7,471 yds, par 72)

PURSE: $750,000

CANADIAN CONTENT: Ron Harvey Jr. (alternate)

NOTES: Three-time Asian Tour money winner Thongchai Jaidee, ranked 59th in the world, needs nothing short of a victory this weekend to vault him into the top 50 in the world rankings which would earn him an invitation to the Masters. ...Major champions Ernie Els, Michael Campbell and Y.E. Yang are in the field along with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who won last week in Malaysia.



COURSE: Reserve Club at St. James, Southport, N.C. (7,212 yds, par 72)

CANADIAN CONTENT: Brad Boyle, Cam Burke, Greg Doherty, Robbie Greenwell, MacKenzie Hughes, Brett Nymeyer, Ryan Terdik

NOTES: Seven of the top 10 players from the tour's current money list are in the field this week. ...Burke is coming off a tie for 16th at the last event - his fourth straight top 20 result. He currently sits 12th on the money list. ...Hughes is making his fourth start of the year. He posted his first top 20 result at the Irish Creek Classic...An exemption into the Tour's South Georgia Classic next month is also up for grabs.



COURSE: Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon - Champions Course (7,377 yds, par 72)

CANADIAN CONTENT: Jordan Krantz, Richard Boychuk, Aaron Crawford, Wes Heffernan, Bryan Scott, Thomas Hay, Dallas Mengel, Steven Shantz, Craig Gibson, Adrian Kibsey, Michael Knight, Cory Renfrew, Daniel Pow



COURSE: LPGA International Champions Course, Daytona Beach, FL (6,390 yds, par 72)

CANADIAN CONTENT: Natalie Gleadall, Chelcia Petersen (a), Rachel Pollock (a)


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