For Rory McIlroy, the road to the Masters starts on the other side of the country.

McIlroy is playing the Northern Trust Open for the first time because of all he has heard about Riviera. It's the start of a big stretch. McIlroy is playing five of the next six weeks, and he is looking to regain his No. 1 ranking along with completing the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

McIlroy dropped back to No. 3 in the world ranking. The tournaments he is playing will be the strongest of the year to date. Jordan Spieth, the world No. 1, is at Riviera. In two weeks at Doral, the top three in the world — Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day — will play together for the first time since September.