Rory McIlroy hailed by rivals

2015 02 Getty Images 464372318

• Rory McIlroy aiming for second Honda Classic title
• "I'm excited to get back out there," said the world No.1
• Kaymer: "He's playing excellent ... There are no weaknesses"


World No.1 Rory McIlroy begins his preparation for the Masters at the Honda Classic later today, with Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler hailing the four-time major winner.

The event, being played on the PGA National (Champion) course at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is the 25-year-old’s first on American soil in 2015 and his seventh career appearance at the Honda Classic.

Rory McIlroy, who won the competition in 2012 and was runner-up in 2014, said he was excited to get underway as he begins his build-up in the USA ahead of the Masters in April.

“This is my seventh start here since 2009, so I haven’t missed a year and I’ve always enjoyed it,” Rory McIlroy said.

“I’ve spent three weeks here and been practicing and playing away. It feels like quite a long since I’ve teed it up in competition a few weeks ago. So, I’m happy to be here, excited to get back out there and get a scorecard in hand and feel what it’s like to compete again.”

The appearance of Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic has been a talking point of the Northern Irishman’s rivals, with Kaymer and Fowler full of praise for the reigning Open champion.

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Kaymer said: "He’s playing excellent golf. I played with him in Dubai for the first two rounds and there are no weaknesses. The only one who can beat him I think is himself.

“You have to give him a lot of credit, especially after the season he had last year, to continue and play well again at the beginning of the season. Also,  how he handles everything else, with his private stuff, it’s very, very impressive I think.”

Fowler added: “He’s the best player in the world and was on top of his game through last year. When he’s driving the ball well, that’s when he’s at his deadliest and he did a good job of putting himself in play last year and obviously he hits longer than a lot of guys too.”

More than half of the world’s top 50 are in action at this week's PGA Tour event, including Stephen Gallacher, who tees off at 1.15pm local time (6.15pm UK time). The only other Scot in the field is Russell Knox, who is off at 12.05pm.

Selected groups to watch (all times local):

7.35am: Russell Henley, Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell (10th)
7.45am: Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia (10th)
12.35pm: Patrick Reed, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose
12.45pm: Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson

Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic :: Your thoughts

Can Rory McIlroy get his Masters preparations underway with a victory in Florida? Leave your thoughts in the 'Comments' section below.

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