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McIlroy on mission to hit European summit

RORY McILROY has his sights set on finishing the season as European number one for the first time to cap a brilliant year.

McILROY is already ranked world No 1 and has sealed the money list title on the US Tour after four wins in 2012, including his second major title in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

But the 23-year-old has never finished top of the European 'Race to Dubai' standings and is determined to do so after finishing second to Ryder Cup team-mates Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

"The big goal is just to keep my level (of play) up and try to win the Race to Dubai," McIlroy said ahead of his first match against Matt Kuchar in the inaugural Turkish Airlines World Golf Final today.

"I have a bit of a lead at the minute. I have come close twice before and if I can win it this time it would be a great way to cap off a great season."

McIlroy is currently £346,000 ahead of another Ryder Cup team-mate, Justin Rose, on the money list, but South Africa's Branden Grace leapt from 12th to third with his fifth victory of the season in the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.

And although he is a further £276,000 back, there remains plenty of cash on offer for him to complete an unbelievable campaign.

"First is definitely in my sights," Grace said. "The gap is not a lot - maybe one more win or a couple of good finishes."

McIlroy added: "I watched some of the golf on Sunday and he was very impressive down the stretch, especially after the wobble he had around the turn. We have some big-money events left so there's a lot that can happen."

Big money is certainly up for grabs in Turkey, but none of it will count to the money list as the event is not sanctioned by either the European or PGA Tour.

McIlroy is among an eight-strong field competing for a first prize of £935,000, with £620,000 for the runner-up and even £187,000 for seventh and eighth.

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2012 Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar join McIlroy and Tiger Woods in Group One, with Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and US Open champion Webb Simpson in Group Two.

The format is medal match play - head-to-head matches with the lowest strokeplay score over 18 holes winning one point - and each player plays three matches in the group stages; one today and two tomorrow.

The winner of Group One will then face the runner-up of Group Two, and vice versa, in Thursday's semi-finals, with the final to be staged on Friday.

McIlroy and Woods will not face each other until the final game tomorrow, by which time they could already be through to the semi-finals if they win their opening two games.

McIlroy has played down talk of rivalry between himself and 14-times major winner Woods. Ryder Cup winner McIlroy and world number two Woods are the biggest names in a field which includes five of the world's top 10. The lowest-ranked player is Schwartzel at 30th.


McIlroy and Woods could potentially meet again in Friday's final.

"This will be the first match where we have played against each other head-to-head compared to individual stroke play so it should be fun, and it's a match I would really like to win," McIlroy said.

"But while I would rather be a part of this than not, I'm in a great position being compared to Tiger. People who watch sports want to see some form of rivalry between myself and Tiger but I don't see it.

"I am just pleased to be mentioned in the same conversation with Tiger."