Rory McIlroy has admitted there are times he needs to get away from golf — as he controversially did last week even though a world championship was being played.
The world No 1 returns to action at the Singapore Open today and by Sunday night he could have completed the same money-list double on the European and American tours achieved for the first time by Luke Donald last year.
Skipping the HSBC Champions in China did not harm his chances, but it did bring him criticism, especially as he was in the country at the start of the week for a head-to-head with Tiger Woods that was rumoured to have earned each of them a seven-figure sum.
McIlroy, who instead chose to fly to Bulgaria to watch girlfriend Carolina Wozniacki play tennis, said yesterday: “It’s a big event, it’s a tough one to miss. I need those weeks where I can just completely escape from this, from my life. I forget where I am, what I do, I’m completely away from it and those weeks are very helpful for me.
“You see some guys out there, golf is everything, their life — of course it’s my life and I’m very lucky too — but sometimes you need to step away from it. Spending time with Caroline helps me to do that. That’s the biggest challenge for us going forward.”
McIlroy needs only to finish in the top three in the Barclays Singapore Open and he will become the youngest European No 1 in 36 years.
Former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, currently seventh on the money list, is the nearest challenger to McIlroy, who is making his first appearance in Singapore in four years.
McIlroy caught local Singapore journalists off guard in arriving for his pre-event press conference early but regardless, the first question went straight for the jugular with the world No 1 asked his comments on golf’s worst-kept secret.
“I’m still a Titleist player to the end of the year and I’ve made no commitments to any other company for next year, so it’s a process we’re working through and you will probably hear more in coming weeks,” said McIlroy.
Also away from the formal conference, McIlroy was asked to comment on a number of subjects he has found himself at the centre of.
Firstly, Arnold Palmer joked he would break McIlroy’s arm if he didn’t make his first appearance at Arnie’s event at Bay Hill next year.
McIlroy broke out in a smile, responding: “Well, I guess I will have to play the Masters with one arm then!”
And McIlroy was quizzed on Christy O’Connor Jnr’s belief that McIlroy can win at least 10 Major championships.
“No, I’ve never had a number in mind but then I feel very fortunate to have won two Majors and I would love to get to three, and hopefully when I get to three I will then get to four, as that’s my goal,” he said.
McIlroy has been drawn to play the opening two rounds of this week’s $6m event in the company of Oosthuizen and Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant.
Also in the field is Dubliner Peter Lawrie, lying 60th in the Race to Dubai and looking next month to be voted onto the Tournament Players’ Committee.
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