McIlroy enjoyed a landmark 2012, winning five titles including a second Major at the USPGA Championship and ascending to the top of the rankings, but saw his form desert him after the turn of the year.
Yet the Northern Irishman arrived at Augusta in buoyant mood, having finished second at last week’s Texas Open, his best display of the season, and insists he will leave downcast if he does not go one better on Sunday.
“Yeah, it would be [disappointing]. Every time you come to Augusta you want to win the green jacket and every time you don’t it’s another chance missed,” said the 23-year-old, who will play the first two rounds alongside American Keegan Bradley and Swede Freddie Jacobson.
“If I’m sitting here on Sunday having finished second and given it a good run you can’t be too disappointed, but the ultimate aim is to win.”
McIlroy, who has repeatedly denied his woeful form was down to a hugely lucrative switch to Nike clubs, also played down the importance of his poor performances in the first three months of the year.
He added: “The main golf season is from April to the end of August [when the Majors are held] so that’s when I want to play my best golf.”
McIlroy’s apparent return to form just days ago has revived hopes the year’s first Major could turn into a duel between him and Tiger Woods, who last month replaced him at the pinnacle of the rankings.
Woods is the world’s in-form player, with three wins this season, and is favourite to triumph at Augusta, where he will tee off tomorrow alongside England’s Luke Donald. It would be the 37-year-old’s 15th Major win but a first since 2008, and would cap a remarkable return to dominance some thought beyond him following turbulence in his personal life.
Mike Weir, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk 2:06pm
Brandt Snedeker, Ryo Ishikawa, Justin Rose 2:17pm
Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Steven Fox 3:34pm
Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Scott Piercy 3:45pm
Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington 3:56pm
Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer 6:30pm
Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson 6:41pm
All first-round tee times BST