McIlroy in the money, but silverware his true driver
Rory McIlroy will add another €780,000 to his millions the moment he tees off in Dubai tomorrow — but it is not money driving the 23-year-old on in his already glittering career.
By Mark Garrod
“Winning, trying to be the best player that I can be, trying to win majors — that’s the real goal for me,” golf’s world number one said yesterday.
The six-figure cheque will be his once he starts the DP World Tour Championship as the end-of-season bonus for topping the European Tour money list.
He clinched that two weeks ago, adding it to the PGA Tour number one spot he had in the bag without playing any of the last four events. That is how dominant he has been this year.
Luke Donald did the same double last season, but he had to go to the last day in both races to achieve the feat. McIlroy has done it at a canter.
With a second runaway major win also now on his record, the Irishman is such as force in the game — in all sport — that Nike are thought to be prepared to spend over £150m (€186m) to get him using their clubs.
For his final event of 2012, McIlroy is still playing Titleist, but he added: “This is the last week that I will.”
Nick Faldo has warned of the dangers of switching, but the reigning USPGA champion is not worried.
“I’ve tinkered about enough to feel comfortable going into next season. I think all of the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it’s all very, very similar.
“I mean, a lot of the manufacturers get their clubs made at the same factories as each other. I don’t think it will make a difference at all.”
With that mindset, he sees no need to lower his sights for next year.
The four majors are the top targets inevitably and he stated confidently: “I got one in 2011, I backed it up this year with another major-winning season and I would love to say 2013 will be similar.
“That’s the benchmark for me.”
The ultimate for further down the road if all goes well, of course, would be Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors — or whatever mark Tiger Woods gets to.
But on that he stated: “I’ve always said I’m never going to put a number on it. I don’t want to do that.
“I just want to get my third, and when I get my third, I want to try get my fourth. Obviously I’m halfway to the career Grand Slam, so that’s probably the next obvious goal for me.”
Only five players in history — Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods — have won all four majors. McIlroy needs The Masters and the Open Championship.
A fifth win in 2012 will only add to his belief that it might not be far away. He will be presented with the European Tour Race to Dubai crown on Sunday, but hopes that, like Lee Westwood three years ago, it will be in addition to a tournament title worth €1m.
“I’d like to pick up two trophies at the end of the week. Obviously you have to stay right until the end (there is no halfway cut for the 57-strong field), so I might as well make it matter.
“I really want to play well this week, finish this season on a high.”
Especially after missing the cut in Hong Kong last week after four-putting his final green.
While that was happening, Donald was on course to a victory in Japan that was his third of 2012 and he dearly wants to make it four before taking a two-month break.
The 34-year-old Englishman, back up to world number two ahead of Woods, remembers the excitement he felt at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course a year ago.
It is not the same this time with McIlroy’s early ascension to the throne, but Donald believes that is food for thought.
“They may want to think about adding a scenario where that doesn’t happen and incorporate either a play-off system or some other way to make sure that it does go down to the wire. I think that makes it more exciting.”
The FedEx Cup play-offs in the US are now constructed around a points system which means that no matter what happens in the first three tournaments the $10m bonus is still up for grabs in the fourth and final week.
This year McIlroy won the second and third legs, but Brandt Snedeker lifted the trophy by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Not surprisingly, McIlroy likes the way Europe is and is not such a fan of the US format. “I played well during the FedEx Cup play-offs and felt a little hard done by not being able to win that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved