As if his Quail Hollow rampage was not enough of a warning shot to his rivals, Rory McIlroy goes into today’s BMW PGA Championship having admitted he would be disappointed not to win a major this summer.
Modesty prevented the world No.1 from agreeing with US Open champion Martin Kaymer that when a player gets on a run of form such as McIlroy is enjoying right now, he is likely to feel unbeatable. “Golf is a very fickle game and it can humble you quite quickly,” he said yesterday, “so I definitely don’t think I’m unbeatable.”
Yet with three tournament victories already this season and two wins in his last three starts, including a third-round 61 last Saturday en route to a seven-shot Wells Fargo Championship success at Quail Hollow, the Irishman will tee it up at Wentworth this morning looking to further stamp his authority on a golfing world in which he aims to be the best of his generation.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 20, 2015
“I feel like I’m in a generation with a lot of young guys that are coming up and I want to be the best of this generation,” McIlroy told the BBC.
“I want to win a lot more tournaments, I can win a lot more majors. I haven’t put a number on it because I don’t want to put that burden on myself. I just want to be better than everyone else.”
McIlroy begins his BMW PGA title defence today while an Irish Open at Royal County Down next week and the US Open to follow in mid-June at Chambers Bay in Washington State are also well within the 26-year-old’s sights as he bids to continue his romp through the calendars of both the European and PGA Tours.
Rory McIlroy’s last 10 European Tour finishes: 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 9th, 4th, 1st. pic.twitter.com/kAB0b8st7R— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 19, 2015
That has seen him lift trophies at the Dubai Desert Classic, WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Wells Fargo so far in 2015 and it is the sort of form, following on from his brilliant summer of last year, that has the likes of Kaymer and Graeme McDowell talking in superlatives. “I just can feel, having spoken to him a little bit the last couple days, I can feel the drive emanating out of him,” McDowell said of his fellow Ulster man yesterday.
“I feel like he’s probably more motivated and more driven. You look at a guy like him, he kind of has that Tigeresque drive to do more. He feels very driven right now and certainly would not surprise me to go on and see him continue with some strong play this year.”
McDowell is one of a strong Irish contingent at Wentworth this week but there is no guessing which one will start the first round today as tournament favourite and McIlroy is not about to start playing down his chances.
Asked what would constitute a good year in 2015, the four-time major champion replied: “I don’t know, I mean, I’ve got off to a good start. Three wins already this season. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t I be disappointed if I wasn’t to win one of the next three majors. I think that’s really what determines a good or a great season for me these days. So there’s three majors left this season, and I’d love to add to my tally.”
Next month’s US Open is the next opportunity to reach that majors objective but for now McIlroy has more immediate priorities, including a winning return to Wentworth, the place that ignited a remarkable 12 months of golf when he beat Shane Lowry by a stroke with a final-round 66. “My mind is focused on the next two weeks here and at The Irish Open.
"I just want to try and finish off this stretch of golf as well as I can, and I get a couple weeks off after that. Then I’ll start to think about the US Open and get ready for that. This is what kickstarted everything, really (last year). This win, it gave me a lot of confidence to go on into the summer and do what I did.
"There wasn't much adrenaline in the body today. Once I step on the first tee tomorrow, that will be different." pic.twitter.com/eZRyZPIEHp— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 20, 2015
"It was a real catalyst. I felt like I was playing well before that, but I wasn’t able to turn good finishes into wins. I was finishing in the top 10 or top five, but I wasn’t really contending too much in tournaments.
“So for it to be my first tournament of the year where I got myself sort of into contention and to play a back nine like I did last year, it did a lot for my confidence. And you know, who knows, if I hadn’t had this tournament, things might have been a little bit different. But it definitely was the start of a great 12 months.”
And there is more to come if McIlroy is feeling as good on and off the course as he says he is. “I think I’m pretty close to playing my best golf,” he told BBC. “I’m definitely able to feel more equipped to win now. “If you’re happy off the golf course, you’re going to play better on it. I’m playing well on it, so it must mean that everything is going well off it.”
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