Rory McIlroy will bid to regain his world number one ranking from Tiger Woods ahead of the Masters in this week's Shell Houston Open.
Woods returned to the top on Monday for the first time since October 2010 after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his third tournament victory of the year.
However, the American will not be playing again until the first major championship of the year, the Masters, which begins in Augusta on 11 April.
It gives McIlroy the chance to move back to the top of the pile at the Augusta-like Redstone Golf Club, but to do so he must beat a strong field which includes last year's winner Hunter Mahan, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood.
If, however, McIlroy does not win in Houston, he looks set to carry a relatively lower profile going into the Masters, but that is something he admits he would relish as he looks to find his form after a difficult start to 2013.
"I didn't think I could go into the Masters under the radar," McIlroy told pgatour.com.
"I can go in a little bit underneath him (Woods). So, in a way, it's not a bad thing."
The Holywood native pulled out of the Honda Classic midway through his second round earlier this month after missing the cut at Abu Dhabi and losing in the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, but he then shot 65 in the WGC Cadillac Championship three weeks ago and believes he is near to overcoming his dip in form.
"We're not machines. We're humans. We go through highs and lows," McIlroy said.
"It's just sport and that's golf. You're going to have patches where you struggle a little bit. I guess you have just got to take the rough and the smooth.
"Play and be patient and know that you are working on the right things.
"The weekend at Doral was great and the way I've been hitting the ball recently. I've just got to keep working on it and keep working on it. I definitely feel like it's going in the right direction."
The winner of the Houston Open will earn the penultimate "win and you're in" invitation to the Masters if they are not already eligible, with the top 50 players in the world also earning invites to the tournament.