Rory McIlroy looking forward to Honda Classic return

Rory McIlroy returns to the Honda Classic one year after a controversial withdrawal
Rory McIlroy returns to the Honda Classic one year after a controversial withdrawal

Rory McIlroy is looking forward to returning to the Honda Classic one year after his controversial withdrawal from the Florida tournament.

The Northern Irishman walked off the Palm Beach Gardens course midway through the second round last year citing toothache for his early exit.

McIlroy, 24, has described the event as one of his favourites of the year.

"Last year I had a tough, forgettable week, but I really can't wait to get back to the Honda," he said.

McIlroy was defending champion last year when he withdrew from the tournament, initially telling reporters he was in a "bad place mentally" before complaining of toothache.

He subsequently apologised for the incident and admitted he should have battled through the bad form which blighted most of 2013 following his multi-million pound switch to Nike.

It took McIlroy until December to register his only win of the season, but he has shown glimpses of his best form already this year - despite a second-round exit from the WGC-Accenture Match Play last week - and can also enjoy some home comforts.

"It is one of my favourite events of the year and winning in 2012 was an important landmark in my career," he said.

"Having a place in Palm Beach now also gives the tournament a kind of special feeling - nearly like a home event.

"Last year, I guess I let frustrations get the better of me and perhaps should have adopted a more mature approach."

Seven of the world's top 10 are in the field at PGA National, with Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson returning to action after opting to miss last week's match play event in Arizona.

Jason Day, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are the players to miss out, with Day taking a break after his WGC-Accenture victory which lifted him to a career-high fourth in the rankings, while Rose is again struggling with a shoulder injury.

McIlroy has been paired with Masters champion Adam Scott and Billy Horschel, while Graeme McDowell will play alongside Open champion Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.

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