The Arnold Palmer Invitational will boast its strongest field in years but big-name golfers at the Florida event admit they already have one eye fixed on the Masters in April.
The prestigious PGA Tour event at Bay Hill will field six of the world's top-10 golfers and 13 of the top 20, despite eight-time event winner Tiger Woods withdrawing on tournament eve.
World No.2 Justin Rose returns to competitive golf after taking a month off to rest before a busy five months, beginning this week.
Rose said the PGA Tour's revamped schedule – which includes the elite Players Championship being held next week instead of May and the PGA Championship moving to May – was the reason behind his rest.
"I've had four weeks off at home putting some gas back in the tank," the Englishman said at the Orlando course on Wednesday.
The 38-year-old Rose will this year ditch his usual playing of the event prior to the four majors and admits he is already thinking about Augusta National.
"(The Masters) is on the mind for sure. It's about (trying) to keep your game fresh and sharp to peak there," Rose said.
"It's really important to be in contention once or twice heading into the Masters."
Rose is hoping to finally taste victory at Bay Hill, having earned six top-15 results in his past seven starts, including a third placing behind winner Rory McIlroy last year.
McIlroy is in a rich vein of form, earning top-five results in all four PGA Tour starts this year. But he has not hoisted a trophy worldwide since winning by three shots at Bay Hill last year.
RIGHT: McIlroy can complete the career Grand Slam by winning at Augusta National. PHOTO: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
The 29-year-old has risen to World No.6, helped by a second placing behind No.1 Dustin Johnson at the recent WGC-Mexico Championship, and is adamant his 15th PGA Tour victory is close.
"Whether it was Mexico, Riviera or Torrey Pines, I left happy with where my game was even though I didn't win," McIlroy said.
Four-time major winner McIlroy admits, like Rose, he is already preparing for the Masters in April – where he has a chance to become just the sixth golfer to complete golf's career Grand Slam.
"I've been messing around with a 64-degree lob wedge as I think that could be beneficial around (Augusta)," McIlroy, a winner of the US Open, Open Championship and the US PGA Championship, said.
"I've been making sure I get my driver turning over (right-to-left) as that's something I've struggled with the last couple of years at the Masters."
Former Bay Hill champions Jason Day and Marc Leishman, as well as Aaron Baddeley, are the only Australians in the field.
- Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press