Former world No1 Rory McIlroy insists his latest Masters disappointment is behind him as he prepares for a tilt at the other Major, albeit unofficial, missing from his CV on Thursday.
McIlroy failed to capitalise on a strong position heading into the final round at Augusta last month, slipping out of contention with a 74 that left him six shots adrift of eventual winner Patrick Reed.
While not on the same scale as his epic Sunday collapse at the same event in 2011, it ensured the Northern Irishman will not complete a career grand slam until at least next year.
Yet solace beckons in the form of The Players Championship, the richest tournament outside of the US Open and a field to compare with any of the official Majors. McIlroy believes he is ready.
“As soon as the Masters went and I had a week to reflect and everything, it was all positive,” said McIlroy, part of an all-star group for the first two rounds alongside Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
“We’ve got this event here; I’ve never won this and I would love to put this on my CV. We’ve got the other three Major championships. We’re not even halfway through the season.
“It was disappointing, but I took a lot of positives from the fact that I probably didn’t have my best stuff at Augusta and I still was able to play my way into the final group and contend. It gives you motivation.”
McIlroy, 29, believes he has overcome initial difficulties with the Sawgrass set-up that saw him miss the cut in his first three visits.
He enjoyed three top-eight finishes in a row from 2013 to 2015, was 12th the following year in a display that included a second-round 64, and 35th on his last appearance at the tournament.
“I learned to play the course a little bit better and reined myself in on some tee shots, and that’s what has brought me a little bit of success here,” he added.
“I feel like I’ve played a little bit better here as I’ve gone along, and once I started to be a little bit more conservative, I started to top-10 it and give myself half a chance.”