McIlroy eyes Masters at Pebble Beach Pro

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Rory is one of the many big names in the field, along with Dustin Johnson, Rahm, Jordan Spieth, and Jason Day.

However, the former US Open champion has a huge amount of world ranking points to defend in the coming weeks, having finished third at Pebble Beach past year and then winning his next three events before injury prevented him from competing in the Masters.

The event on the Californian coast marks McIlroy's first start of the PGA Tour season, having got himself in the mix in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai in European Tour events last month. "So it's going to be tough for me to keep it", said Johnson. "And I think Rory has the ability to go out there and win more majors than he has right now and I'm sure that's what he wants to do". "But, yeah, I mean, if I don't play well, there's a lot of really good players that are playing really well right now".

He has placed in the top 10 in his last five events. "So it's going to be tough for me to keep it, but if I keep playing like I am and how I should, then, yeah, I'll be there at the end of the year".

"I had two chances to win golf tournaments and I didn't", McIlroy said of his performances in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

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Jon Rahm has another chance to dethrone Dustin Johnson as the world's No. 1-ranked golfer this week at Pebble Beach. He finished tied for fifth in this tournament previous year.

"I'm trying to play as best I can and I realise the position I'm in in the world of golf".

"There was a little bit of ... recalibration of what I need to do to be at that level", he said.

The Australian won the US PGA Championship in 2015 but has battled injuries and struggled for consistency in recent years, and now he wants further success on the biggest stage.

McIlroy, who has been paired with 2013 Open champion Phil Mickelson in today's opening round, is excited about partnering his dad Gerry in the pro-am event, the pair having already joined forces in the Dunhill Links in the past. And I know if I play well and I do what I can do and control what I can control, I'll have chances to win golf tournaments. I don't want to dwell on them too much - I take them for what they are, which are good performances in a couple of pretty solid golf tournaments.

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