McIlroy yearns for Masters glory and Woods return


Rory McIlroy already has one eye on the Masters in April and would love the opportunity to go up against Tiger Woods for a major title.

McIlroy will defend the Dubai Desert Classic title he won for the second time in 2015 this weekend, but is already looking forward to the Augusta event, which begins in just over two months.

It is the only major to have evaded the 26-year-old and he is eager to put that right, but he will not allow it to distract him during the intervening period.

"It's going to be the most talked-about tournament because of the gap between the PGA Championship in August and April," McIlroy said.

"It's a big deal and there's a long wait and for people who don't follow golf closely, it's probably the start of their golf season.

"I don't mind talking about it this early, as long as I don't put so much emphasis on it because there are so many other great tournaments that I want to try to win before getting to Augusta.

"Of course you want to be part of the discussion. Sometimes it gets into your head at times when you don't want it to, but it's always better to be part of the conversation."

The world number two is disappointed that 14-time major winner Woods - who won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2006 and 2008 - is unlikely to be in the field at Augusta as he continues his recovery from ongoing back problems.

McIlroy hopes the 40-year-old, who claimed his last major in 2008, a year after the Northern Irishman turned professional, can recover and return to action so the pair can go head to head for a top title.

"Hopefully if he can get healthy, I would still love to have a crack at him down the stretch in a major, I would love that, just once," he added.

"At this point it's just up to him to get healthy and get his game back and if I hopefully keep playing the way I'm playing, maybe one day it'll happen."