Rory McIlroy believes he is a worthy world number one and now he wants to prove it, starting this weekend at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The US Open champion from Holywood tees off this morning leading a stellar European Tour field in its flagship event alongside world numbers two and three Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.
McIlroy was back in his hotel room 12 months ago contemplating his 24th-place finish in the event as Donald edged home in a play-off victory over Westwood to claim the title and replace his fellow Englishman as world number one. The Irishman has joined the top table in the intervening period, winning the US Open last June and claiming top spot in the rankings himself on March 4 this year following his Honda Classic victory in Florida.
Number one status has changed hands between McIlroy and Donald four times since, with the Ulsterman regaining pole position recently. Now he firmly intends keeping his closest rivals at bay.
“I think you have to believe that you’re better than anyone else. On my day I believe I can beat anyone in the world,” McIlroy said yesterday ahead of his opening round today partnering Ernie Els and Martin Laird.
“It’s just finding that capability of when you’re not playing your best to still come out on top. That’s the thing that I’m trying to learn how to do because I’ve proved in the past that I’m pretty hard to beat.
“So you have to believe you’re the best and I certainly do believe that. It’s just a matter of going out there and showing everyone else what I believe.”
McIlroy said he first started thinking he was the best player in the world after landing his first major title last June with his record US Open victory at Congressional.
“After that I started thinking of myself as definitely one of the elite players. I think I moved up to number three in the world at that point. From then I’ve played pretty consistently and I’ve won a couple of times.
“It’s hard to walk around saying, you know, ‘I’m the best’ or whatever but you just have to believe in it and be quietly confident.”
Both Donald and Westwood yesterday acknowledged there was much to admire about their 23-year-old rival heading into today’s €4.5m tournament.
“I’ve said in the past I think Rory is one of the most naturally-gifted players there is,” Donald said.
“He just has that look about him; free-flowing, hits the ball far, just seems really effortless.
Westwood added: “Everybody’s got their strengths and weaknesses. That’s the great thing about golf, not everybody does everything the same and that’s why people like certain players.
“I think Luke is probably the best from 80 yards in the world. And I like the sort of effortless power of Rory.”
As for his own game, Westwood shrugged: “I like all of it.”
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