Sydney: World number one Rory McIlroy is back to defend his Australian Open title in the city where he kickstarted his career last year but admitted on Wednesday that the next U.S. Masters is never far from his mind.The reigning British Open and U.S. PGA Championship title holder could win a third straight major if he secures the green jacket at Augusta in April and said he was thinking about it "every day".
"It`s the next big career goal of mine, it would complete the career grand slam," the Northern Irishman told reporters on Wednesday.
"It`s going to be a great position to be in a few months` time driving down Magnolia Lane, having a chance to win my third major in a row, the chance to complete the career grand slam at 25, so I`m going to enjoy it.
"I know there`s going to be a lot of hype but I think you just have to embrace that and I`m just going to go and enjoy the week as best I can and make sure that I`m prepared for that week next year."
The first order of business for McIlroy at the Australian Golf Club this week, however, is retaining a title he snatched from the grasp of Australian Adam Scott on the final hole last year for his only win of 2013.
Scott is back again this year as well and while the tournament has been billed as a duel between the pair, McIlroy thinks the likes of American Jordan Spieth and a host of strong local contenders could make a mockery of that publicity.
"It`s definitely not a two-horse race," he said. "There`s another 120, 130, 140 players in the field and they`ll all feel like they have a good chance to do well this week."
McIlroy said the victory at Royal Sydney was the springboard for a stellar 2014, even if he had surprised himself by getting back to the top of the world rankings by August.
With the likes of Scott in the pack chasing him, though, he had no intention of standing still going into 2015 and that date with destiny at Augusta.
"I keep trying to get better and better because I know that all the guys that I`m competing against are doing the same thing," said McIlroy, who increased his major tally to four this year.
"It`s going to be tough. The Masters is a place where I`ve had my struggles in the past and I want to try and put that right next year."