Pacific Palisades - Rory McIlroy shrugged
off concerns about his fitness regime on Wednesday as he prepared to tee off on
American soil for the first time this year at the Northern Trust Open.
The 26-year-old Northern Irishman arrived
in California to be greeted by headlines concerning his use of heavy weights
following remarks by veteran US golfer Brandel Chamblee earlier this week.
Chamblee had cautiously questioned whether
McIlroy risked facing the sort of back problems that have plagued former world
number one Tiger Woods by using weights to strengthen his back.
McIlroy responded to Chamblee's remarks by
posting a video of himself on Twitter performing a set of squats.
The world number three said his game had
improved by using weights.
"I definitely feel like the more I got
into exercise and fitness and everything, the better my game became,"
Asked if he had performed squats before his
practice round at the Riviera Country Club on Wednesday, McIlroy quipped:
"Not yet, I'm planning to though - maybe with Brandel on my back."
McIlroy said he had begun using weights
regularly in 2010 as he sought to recover from an injury - and had soon felt
"I think from the start of 2011, the
direct correlation between leading a healthier lifestyle and my performance on
the course was the same," McIlroy said.
"Obviously I'm trying to be strong,
but the whole reason I started this is because I was injured.
"The golf swing is way worse for your
back than anything I do in the gym. So I'm trying to make my back as strong as
I possibly can so that when I come out here and swing a golf club I'm robust
enough to take that."
McIlroy is playing the Los Angeles event
for the first time as he attempts to reclaim his world number one ranking from
Jordan Spieth ahead of the year's first Major at Augusta.
McIlroy would complete a career Grand Slam
with victory at the Masters, where he had a four-shot lead heading into the
final round in 2011 before a spectacular collapse.
McIlroy said his appearance at the Riviera
Country Club in Pacific Palisades was linked to his preparations for Augusta.
"I think the Masters at this point of
the year is on pretty much everyone's mind," McIlroy said.
"This is the start of the road to the
Masters and I think everyone's, if not thinking about it directly, it's
definitely in the back of their minds.
"You're building up to it. You've got
some great events in between now and then, but obviously I'd love my game to be
in peak shape for Augusta in April."
McIlroy will face a strong field with the
main threat coming from Spieth, who arrives from a dominant 2015 already with a
win under his belt this season following victory at the Hyundai Tournament of
Champions last month.
"These tournaments that we've got
coming up, we've got some of the strongest fields of the year, and you know,
it's great," McIlroy said.
"I feel like when I come back to the
States, the golf tournaments that I do play over here are the strongest fields.
I like that. I like the challenge. I like to go up against all those