Watch out Tiger, Jack - Rory's hungry for more
SINGAPORE (AFP) –
Two Major titles, world number one, money titles on both sides of the Atlantic, and still only 23 — but as Rory McIlroy made crystal clear this weekend, he’s just getting started.
The tousle-haired, approachable Northern Irishman has ambitions way beyond his humble roots in Holywood, a port town near Belfast, with an eye on golf’s most coveted records.
After clinching a European Tour-PGA Tour money race double in Singapore, McIlroy said his game was still a work in progress, and set his sights on Colin Montgomerie’s eight European merit wins, and even Jack Nicklaus’s 18 Majors.
“Monty (Montgomerie) won eight order of merits in his prime, and I have won one so there is plenty of ground to make up,” he said, before jetting off to this week’s Hong Kong Open.
“Also, Jack Nicklaus won 18 Majors and I now have my name on two, so targeting the Majors will still be my main focus next season.”
McIlroy has already matched Tiger Woods by winning two Majors before his 24th birthday, and has his eye on a career Grand Slam. On Sunday, he became only the second man after Luke Donald to win both the European and PGA money titles.
“Major, (world) number one, and then the money list, for sure,” he said, when asked to rank this season’s achievements.
McIlroy’s boyish enthusiasm makes him an unlikely superstar — until you spot his tennis player girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in the crowd, or consider his expected, multi-million dollar endorsement by Nike.
His galleries at the Barclays Singapore Open were not quite as bulging or fervent as the crowds that tracked Woods at last month’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia, suggesting his profile has some way to rise.
But his golf is a match for Woods, 36 — the most recent of whose 14 Major titles came in 2008 — as witnessed, to some extent, by his one-shot win in their “Duel at Jinsha Lake” exhibition in China.
As the big attraction in Singapore, McIlroy endured a wave of storm delays, early starts and a troublesome cold to stay in touch with the leaders, and then stepped up a gear with a classy final round of six-under 65.
On his last hole, the par-five 18th, he elicited roars from the packed crowd by rolling in a 35-foot eagle putt to place outright third, enough to confirm him as Europe’s biggest prize money-winner this year.
Despite the achievement, and his second consecutive top-three finish, McIlroy cut a slightly deflated figure after coming just a few strokes from his fifth European Tour win.
“My biggest goal this week was to try to win the Singapore Open and I just came up a little bit short,” he said.
McIlroy will defend his title at the Hong Kong Open, starting on Thursday, before the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai. Then comes the off-season, and a chance to work on his game.
“I’ve got more shots, I’m more experienced, a bit more consistent,” he said of his development this year, indicating that steady improvement was more important than a regular flow of big wins.
“(I’ll) keep working on different aspects of the game, and keep adding a shot here and there in terms of different shots,” McIlroy said.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot more comfortable hitting the ball left to right this year which has made a huge difference to the right-hand pin positions, and just keep trying to improve on any little thing you can.
“It’s been nice that year after year my results have improved and I would like to keep that going. But if I feel like I’m a better golfer next year than I am this year, and so on, that’s how I want to feel.”