McIlroy not lacking in motivation to lift Tour Championship crown

US PGA champion among top contenders to add FedEx trophy to his impressive CV

Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans by the second green during practice for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Rory McIlroy signs autographs for fans by the second green during practice for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

To Rory McIlroy, etching the FedEx Cup on to an already glittering CV at the tender of age of 25 would matter more than the riches that come its wake.

Victory for McIlroy at this weekend’s Tour Championship will add the FedEx trophy – plus the small matter of more than $10 million in prize money – to a summer collection that already includes the Claret Jug and the Wanamaker Trophy. The Northern Irishman also secured the European Tour’s marquee title, the PGA Championship, for good measure.

None of those events come close to matching the FedEx play-off series in terms of financial worth, but McIlroy’s focus is on something different.

“I don’t think it [the money] will make me any more nervous on the golf course on Sunday. It’s not like it’s going to do that to me,” said McIlroy. “Ten million dollars is a lot of money to anyone . . . I am not saying I am motivated by the money in any way. It is obviously nice and I have made a lot of money over the past seven or eight years . . . But it’s one of the only things that I haven’t achieved in the game of golf, a FedEx Cup win. That’s the real reason I want to win this week . . . it’s the title that would mean more to me.”

As if to endorse that point, McIlroy added: “Anything other than a win here would be a disappointment. After I finished at the US PGA, all my focus was on the FedEx Cup and trying to win this.”

McIlroy’s challenge for the BMW Championship in Denver last week was hampered by scarcely believable four-putts on the same hole in successive days. He admitted “a good bit” of his subsequent downtime has been spent on putting. “There were no four-putts on the practice green,” he said with a smile.

McIlroy has been consistently uneasy with any suggestion that he is leading a new golfing era. It seems pertinent that this week marks only the second time since 1992 that neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson has featured at the 30-man Tour Championship, but McIlroy himself is playing at East Lake for only the second time.

“Phil has played well in parts this year,” added McIlroy. “He came really close to winning the US PGA but . . . you could see he was getting a little tired in the last couple of weeks.

“Tiger is not here just because he has been injured. He hasn’t had the opportunity to play but I think when he gets back to full fitness you will see him back here again.”

McIlroy added: “They are just getting older. Phil is 44 and Tiger is nearly 40 [38, in fact]. So they are getting into the sort of last few holes of their careers. And that’s what happens. You get injured. Phil has had to deal with an arthritic condition. So obviously it gets harder as you get older. I’ll be able to tell you in 20 years how it feels.”

McIlroy, who confirmed yesterday that he will feature in the Dunhill Links Championship in early October, admitted he is likely to curtail his schedule in future. “I think I’ll play 25 individual events this year and the Ryder Cup will make it 26,” said the world number one.

“Over the next few years I’ll probably let it come down a little bit, maybe make it between 20 and 23, just to try and stay as fresh as possible and to give myself the best chance each and every week I tee it up. I have never been a guy that likes to play too much. I’ll never get above 25 or 26 but at the same time it would be nice to shave a couple of events off a year and try and get it down to 21, 22.” Guardian Service

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