Rory McIlroy has set his sights on becoming the best non-American golfer of all time and plans to return stronger than ever after completing an injury-marred season that has seen him drop to sixth in the world rankings.
After winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup last year, McIlroy’s campaign was stalled by two separate injury layoffs and he signed off for the season in a tie for 63rd at the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.
The 28-year-old four-time major champion, who will now take a three-month winter break, said his first target would be to complete the career grand slam, which can be achieved next April at the US Masters.
“And then, try and become the best European golfer ever. Try and surpass Nick Faldo (who won six majors) in that,” he said.
“If I had a career goal, it would be to be the best international golfer ever. Gary Player has nine majors. I’d like to think I’m going to give myself a chance to get close to that tally,” added the former world number one.
McIlroy will look to use his time off the course to fully recover from rib and back injuries that plagued him all season.
“My last round of 2017 sort of summed up all of 2017. Not much happening, good or bad. Just sort of stuck in neutral,” he said after signing for a level-par 72 at St Andrews.
“It hasn’t been the year I wanted on the golf course.
“I started with grand ambitions of trying to add to my major tally and trying to win golf tournaments. I haven’t won and the results haven’t been what I wanted, but I feel like I can still salvage something from the rest of this year, even though I‘m not playing.
“I’ve given myself an opportunity to put a lot of good foundations in place.”
McIlroy last went winless in 2008, a year after he turned professional as an 18-year-old. However, he said he was a better player now than he was in 2011 and 2012, when he won majors. “I feel like I can do better than that in the next 10 years. That’s why I feel like these next three months are very important to put some really good things in place.”
Former top-ranked McIlroy, who has had two spells out of action this year because of injury, has dropped to No. 6 in the world — behind players like 24-year-old Americans Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas and rising 22-year-old Spanish star Jon Rahm.
The last of McIlroy’s four majors came at the PGA Championship in 2014.
“I feel I’m a much better player than I was in 2011 and 2012, when I was able to win a couple of majors,” the 28-year-old McIlroy said.
“I feel I can do better than that in the next 10 years and that’s why these next three months are very important for me to put some really good things in place, step away and just reassess where I’m at and where I need to be.
“The landscape of the game has changed a bit since I started to win majors. You have young, hungry guys now who are fearless and playing the game how I basically came out and played a few years ago.
“It’s about gaining an advantage again here and there. Just reassessing everything and making sure I’m not leaving any stone unturned and do everything I can to get back to (being) the best player in the world.”
McIlroy said he will not start hitting balls again until the end of November and will focus on rehab and “getting my body right.”
A rib injury sustained at the SA Open in January forced him to have six weeks off, and the problem resurfaced at times.
McIlroy turned pro in 2007 and failed to win a title the following year.
Since 2009, he has won 21 titles worldwide.
American Jack Nicklaus tops the list of major winners in golf with 18 victories, four clear of compatriot Tiger Woods.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved