McIlroy: Masters wide open
Rory McIlroy is disappointed Tiger Woods will miss this year's Masters but is aiming to take advantage of the world No 1's absence.
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Woods, a four-time winner of the opening major of the season, has withdrawn after undergoing surgery on a pinched nerve in his back, meaning he will be absent at the Augusta National for the first time since his 1995 debut.
McIlroy, who has shown recent signs of a return to form after a difficult 2013, admits there will be a certain 'buzz' missing from the tournament.
He said: "Golf is always better when Tiger Woods is in the conversation. Even though he's not playing, he's still in the conversation.
"It draws more people into the game when he plays, when's he's in contention, when's he's winning.
"TV ratings and prize money are up hugely from before he came on the scene. It's great to have Tiger Woods in golf. Hopefully he'll only be out for a little while, it creates a bigger buzz when he's around."
McIlroy looked set to take over from Woods as the dominant golfer in the world when he won the US Open by eight strokes in 2011 and ascended to No 1 in the rankings the following year.
But he has since suffered a relative fall from grace, failing to win in 2013 after switching equipment manufacturers.
The Northern Irishman believes golf, not just next week's Masters, is as wide open as it has ever been during his time as a professional.
"It's almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player," he said.
World No 7 McIlroy has rediscovered his consistency this year, with three top 10s including a play-off defeat at the Honda Classic, where he had carried a two-shot lead into the final round.
The 24-year-old said: "I don't have to worry about equipment stuff. Everything is just more settled."