The Northern Irishman described the relaxed nine-hole event as "a
bit of a distraction" as he tries to land a fifth major and a first
at Augusta to complete the set of all four of golf's main titles.
The 26-year-old last skipped the Par 3 contest in 2011, the year he
led the Masters by four shots going into the last day before
collapsing to a final-round 80 to finish 15th.
"The year I had my best chance at Augusta, 2011, I didn't play the
Par 3 contest so maybe the decision not to play it this year can
work in my favor," the world number three said.
The Par 3 event, played over Augusta National's short course around
Ike's Pond, often features celebrities or players' children as
McIlroy had One Direction singer Niall Horan as his guest caddie
last year and his then fiancee Caroline Wozniacki did the job in
McIlroy went to Augusta last year amid a frenzy of hype surrounding
his first chance to complete the grand slam and he finished a
career-best fourth, six shots behind champion Jordan Spieth.
This year he has opted not to visit Augusta for a scouting mission
ahead of the tournament and will arrive on Sunday evening ready for
practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Compared to a year ago and all the hype of winning the Grand Slam,
I already feel a little more mellow and a lot more chilled," he was
quoted as saying on Sky Sports.
McIlroy reached the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas
on Sunday, but last won in November 2015 and has been overshadowed
this year by a number of his rivals at the top of the rankings.
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Australian Jason Day, who beat defending champion McIlroy in Austin
to go back to world number one, won the Match Play the week after
clinching the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
His compatriot Adam Scott, who clinched the Masters in 2013, has won
twice in 2016 while double Masters winner Bubba Watson and defending
champion Spieth have also triumphed this season.
"There's a lot more going on around others competing in the Masters
this year already than the spotlight I found myself in a year ago,"
added McIlroy, who won the U.S. Open in 2011, the British Open in
2014 and the U.S. PGA in 2012 and 2014.
Only five players -- Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack
Nicklaus and Tiger Woods -- have won all four of golf's modern
majors since the U.S. Masters was introduced in 1934.
The Masters takes place at Augusta National, Georgia, from April
(Reporting by Rob Hodgetts, editing by Ed Osmond)
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