Tuesday 24 October 2017

McIlroy sets his sights on hitting top of the world

GOLF

Bernie McGuire, in Hilversum

HAVING knocked the rust off his game in the Alps, Rory McIlroy is determined to relaunch his assault on the summit of world golf in the rain-doused Netherlands today.

Golf fans are in for a real Dutch treat at the KLM Open as world No 4 McIlroy sets his sights on victory and an opportunity to hunt down the two men just ahead of him on the global ladder, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood.

Defending champion Kaymer tees it up with local hero Joost Luiten and Thomas Levet this morning and Germans are likely to cross the border in their droves to watch their world No 3 in action.

Yet, US Open champion McIlroy (22) is the biggest draw in golf right now and will attract huge galleries as he sets out this afternoon with Louis Oosthuizen and Pablo Larrazabal.

A swashbuckling figure on the course, McIlroy makes no secret of his desire to knock Luke Donald off the top of the world by next spring.

"I'm not desperate, but it's definitely a goal that I've set for myself," he said. "I feel as if it's very attainable. It might not be this year, but definitely into next year. I can give myself a very good platform to kick off the season next year if I end the season well.

"So all I want to do is try and get closer to Lee, obviously, at No 2 and then to look at No 1. Luke's got a little bit of a lead at the minute and it would be nice to get closer to him. But at the end of the day, winning golf tournaments takes care of that.

"So I want to just concentrate on trying to play well and give myself chances to win every week that I play," added McIlroy, who proved he'd fully recovered from the wrist injury sustained at the US PGA Championship when finishing tied third in Switzerland last Sunday.

"I played the KLM Open in 2008 at Kennemer and I didn't play very well that week," said the Ulsterman, who missed the cut on that occasion. "Obviously I want to try and do a little better this time.

"It's another chance for me to get myself up in the world rankings. Martin (second behind Thomas Bjorn last week) and Lee (tied sixth in Crans-sur-Sierre) are here, which is going to be a great challenge for me. I'm looking forward to hopefully getting into contention again with those guys."

Holland's in the grip of 'Rorymania' and even torrential downpours, which have left areas of the golf course waterlogged, failed to dampen the atmosphere at Hilversum.

Posters advertising McIlroy's presence at the tournament festoon Amsterdam, 30km to the south, with a few also spotted at Schiphol Airport and in the capital's main rail station.

As in Switzerland, Killarney, Atlanta and virtually every other stop he makes on Tour these days, local Dutch TV networks have been following McIlroy's every move, from the practice range to the media centre.

However, the reigning US Open champion was unfazed. "I'm still trying to keep my feet on the ground. I have the same friends and I'm still very close to my mum and dad," he said. "I try to live as normal a life as possible. But sometimes that's not easy."

And with the Walker Cup taking place this weekend at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland, one wondered if McIlroy would be be interested in the result or focused more on the efforts of his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, the current women's world No 1, as she bids for her first Major title in the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

"To be honest I've lost touch with the amateur game a little since I've turned pro," he said. "I know Paul Culter and Alan Dunbar are in the side and I wish them and the team well, but I've just moved on."

KLM Open, live,

Sky Sports 1, 10.30/ Sky Sports 2, 3.30

Irish Independent

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