McIlroy too busy for date with Tiger
Rory McIlroy cited the importance of sticking rigidly to his new full season playing schedule as his reason for politely declining an invitation to compete next month in the Tiger Woods hosted Target World Challenge in Los Angeles.
Woods has invited some of the game's best to compete in the now annual $5m event held on the Sherwood Country Club course in suburban Thousand Oaks including reigning British Open champion and former event winner, Pádraig Harrington along with current European Number One, Justin Rose.
But as much as McIlroy would dearly love to join his boyhood idol, the 18-year-old rookie pro has had to say no and instead make the most of the three events he will contest on the 2008 European Tour International Schedule prior to the festive break.
"The invite came right out of the blue and it was fantastic to get an invite from the organisers of Tiger's event to compete in the Target World Challenge, and I was thrilled that they would want to invite me considering I'm only just starting out on my career," said McIlroy on the eve of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
"But if I play in his event next month, I would also have to play in the AT&T event in Washington next July that Tiger also hosts. That event clashes with the European Open and I just thought I would be very stupid of me not to play in the European Open.
"It was hard to say no but we've written to the organisers explaining the predicament I'm in, and besides I have 30 more years to compete in Tiger's event, so I had to politely decline.
"It would have been a great way to end the year but at the end of the day, I have to focus first on my schedule and try and stick to that."
Aside from this week's $2.25m UBS Hong Kong Open, McIlroy has also entered next week's co-sanctioned Australian Masters in Melbourne and will then contest a similar co-sanctioned South African Open commencing on December 13th.
McIlroy's no stranger to Hong Kong and is on his third visit to the former British colonial outpost. His past trips have been to play in the Faldo Junior Series and he could not have picked a better venue than the old style tree-lined course in Fanling.
"I really do know the golf course very well and that's a big plus because I feel very comfortable with my knowledge of the course," he said.
"But the main goal being here is to set about winning my first Tour event. I would love to win and win soon, and apart from that I just want to go out and play tournaments and see how I perform.
"I am backing myself to do well and I would be disappointed if at the end of 2008 if I haven't won a tournament.
"So the sooner the better is how I am looking at it and if I do win early, hopefully I could kick to win a couple more."
And if McIlroy was to win early in this new schedule, he hasn't ruled out the likelihood of breaking into the European Ryder Cup team.
His name already appears among the top-30 on both the European World Points list and the European Points list, albeit well down in a respective 19th and 24th place position.
"If I could win soon it is going to get me well up the points list and if that happens, it's a big possibility to breaking into the team," he said.
"It's certainly feasible and it's not unrealistic setting that as a goal, and besides a win or a couple of good results like I had in the Dunhill and Madrid and I'm up there."
And when quizzed if he thought he was setting his goals too high, McIlroy was just as assured as if he was standing over a six-foot putt.
"I don't think for a moment it is aiming too high because it is well within my capability.
"I will be teeing-up each Thursday of my career seeking to win the golf tournament, and just like every other guy out here if I didn't have that belief than I am wasting my time.
"I will be going out with the mindset that I am good, and as good or it not better than all these guys out here, and that's the mindset you have to adopt that I am good enough to win. That's all I am thinking about."
McIlroy has yet to be handed his 'European Tour Member' tag that will be attached to his golf bag, and that will be posted to him once the Q-School has competed.
There's also one change to his equipment since his last event, the Portugal Masters, and that is he's changed to a Titleist 907D2 driver.
"It does feel different in some respects that I am now full-time on the Tour compared to the four events I played on invites in September and last month," he said.
"I still feel like the new guy on the Tour but it was a big weight off my shoulders knowing that I secured my card without having to go to Q-School.
"I could easily be down at San Roque this week or sitting at home and planning a 2008 season on the Challenge Tour but I'm not. I'm on the European Tour proper and I am out here to win.
"And there's no point, even in this, my first event of 2008, trying to think about earning enough to retain my card or to be trying to get into the top-60 or whatever.
"So I will be out competing and trying to win every event I play and having played so many Tour events before turning pro, I know what to expect and I know so many of the guys out here, and I know what I am doing.
"That's half the battle out here as a rookie pro, and that's feeling comfortable out here in your new environment and I've heard people say that I have a old head on young shoulders, and I agree with that totally."
Hong Kong Open, Live Sky Sports 1, 6.0 am