McIlroy could not be happier


RORY McILROY, floored by dengue fever which has forced him to withdraw from this week’s Thailand Golf Championship on medical orders and to remain on in Dubai for a few days of rest and recuperation, may have come up just short in his quest for the European Tour money title but has described his season’s work as “a massive step in the right direction . . . there’s a lot of positive things going into next year”.

Indeed, the monetary evidence alone of the 22-year-old Ulsterman’s impact on this past season is overwhelming: he amassed €4,002,168 in official prize-money on the PGA European Tour, a further €830,380 in bonus money for finishing runner-up behind world number one Luke Donald and another €195,760 ($259,286) in US Tour events that didn’t also count on the European Tour.

He also bagged €1.5 million ($2 million) for winning the Shanghai Masters, the richest first prize in golf, claimed €188,815 ($250,000) for finishing runner-up in the Grand Slam of Golf and a further €125,597 ($166,250) from the World Cup.

Without sponsorship endorsements coming into the equation, McIlroy has won close to €7 million in a hugely successful season that has seen him rise from 10th in the world rankings at the start of the year to his current position at number two.

Rather than looking at the financial rewards, McIlroy’s focus is on the titles won, highlighted by the US Open win at Congressional in June. “I’ve made great progress this year with my game, with my results, with everything. I feel like I am swinging the club as good as I ever have. I feel like my body is as strong as it’s ever been . . . my goals are just to win tournaments and to try and become a multiple-Major champion,” said McIlroy, who won’t play competitively again until the Abu Dhabi Championship on January 26th-29th.

Until then, McIlroy’s plans are to recover from the mosquito-borne illness which left him exhausted and with skewed blood counts in Dubai before returning home where he envisages more work in the gym than on the range. As he put it: “I’m planning on coming back to Dubai on the 12th of January. I’ll see myself doing quite a bit of gym work between now and then, but I probably won’t hit a full shot until I get back (to Dubai).

“I’ll try and keep on top of my short game or my putting a little bit . . . but it will be mostly gym work to get my body stronger.”

He added: “When I sit down and reflect on it over Christmas, to win my first Major and to win a couple more tournaments and to play as well as I have in most of the tournaments I have entered, it’s been a great year. I’ve made great progress and hopefully I can go on to bigger and better things next year.”

One of McIlroy’s targets beyond winning more majors includes overhauling Donald as the number one in the rankings. But, as he sees it, there is no rush.

“I’ve never really put a time frame on it. I said earlier in the year, that sometime next year, it would be great if I was able to do it. I have to play very, very well and if Luke keeps up his current form, you would have to do something spectacular. He’s up there every week; he deserves everything he has got this year.”

In terms of seeking inspiration from Donald’s season – which has seen the Englishman create history by becoming the first player to win the US Tour and European Tour money titles – McIlroy drew a line. “I don’t look at any of the other guys as an inspiration. I have to find inspiration in myself and motivation from inside me, and that’s where you set yourself goals and little targets throughout the year and that’s what you try to achieve. There’s no point in looking at anyone else. If I aspire to be like Luke Donald, then I’ll never be better than him. I want to try and obviously be better than everyone else.”

Meanwhile, George O’Grady, the chief executive of the PGA European Tour, is expected to confirm the venue for next year’s Irish Open within the next two weeks. The Irish Open – still without a title sponsor – has been moved in the schedule for 2012 to the week of June 28th-July 1st to avoid a clash with the London Olympics.

It has been staged in Killarney for the past two years, but there is a belief that next year’s tournament could move to a course in the Dublin area with Carton House, a previous host venue, and Killeen Castle, which staged the Solheim Cup, among those in the running.

Given its slot in the calendar just three weeks ahead of the British Open, the prospects of attracting a strong international field – with all of the Irish players, including current major champions McIlroy and Darren Clarke committed to playing – would be enhanced if the event returned to a links course. Baltray, which staged the event in 2009 when Shane Lowry triumphed, is the last links course to have hosted the championship.