Rory McIlroy has admitted that he is revelling in the competition as he embarks upon a busy schedule in the run-up to the Masters.
The world number two will play the Northern Trust Open for the first time in his career this week, facing off against number one Jordan Spieth at the historic Riviera Country Club in California.
McIlroy will go on to feature in four of the next five events in the run-up to April’s Masters in Augusta, where he hopes to complete his career Grand Slam.
“You really just want your game in the best shape it possibly can be in,” McIlroy told Sky Sports News. “I think confidence is a huge thing going into Augusta. If you’re confident with your game and you’ve got good belief in yourself, then that makes the week much easier.
“These tournaments that we’ve got coming up, we’ve got some of the strongest fields of the year, and it’s great. I feel like when I come back to the States, the golf tournaments that I do play over here are the strongest fields. I like that. I like the challenge. I like to go up against all those guys.
“But this is the start of the road to the Masters and I think everyone, if not thinking about it directly, it’s definitely in the back of their minds.”
McIlroy previously revealed that he has overhauled his entire lifestyle, including diet and fitness regime, as he bids to take home the green jacket.