No. 1 McIlroy driven to be best of his generation

By Randall MellMay 20, 2015, 4:36 pm

Rory McIlroy isn’t motivated by Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods at the moment.

He is driven to separate himself from his generation while thinking he just might retire by the time he’s 40.

“I've already had an eight-year career in golf,” McIlroy told the BBC Sport in a wide-ranging interview this week. “Twenty-five years should be enough to help me achieve what I want to. If there comes a time when I feel I can't win or give it my best I'd very happily hang up the sticks and do something else.”

What Jordan Spieth did winning the Masters last month and Rickie Fowler did winning The Players Championship two weeks ago did plenty to motivate McIlroy. He will tee it up at the BMW PGA Championship Thursday looking to do more than defend his title at the Wentworth Club in England. He’s looking to keep separating himself from Spieth, Fowler and everyone else who is in winning mode in the game today.

“I feel like I'm in a generation with a lot of young guys that are coming up, and I want to be the best of this generation,” McIlroy said. “I want to win a lot more tournaments. I can win a lot more majors. I haven't put a number on it because I don't want to put that burden on myself. I just want to be better than everyone else.”

After winning the Masters, Spieth made the cover of Sports Illustrated, with the headline: “Jordan Rules ... The Spieth era begins now.”

McIlroy saw it.

“It inspired me to see Jordan do what he did at Augusta,” McIlroy told Dan Patrick on his radio show this week. “It inspired me to go out and maybe have a little edge, and a little bit more intensity. Since then it’s been nice to pick up a couple of wins in my last three starts, and I'm sure that’ll spur Jordan on as well.

BMW PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos

“If you look at what Rickie did at The Players, as well, there are a lot of young guys that can go ahead now and take control of big golf tournaments, and again, that can only be good for golf. I think that healthy competition and rivalries is definitely a good thing for all of us.”

McIlroy has won two of his last three starts, the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and last weekend’s Wells Fargo Championship. He’ll be going for four victories in five starts as he tries to repeat as champion at the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship this week and then win next week’s Irish Open.

“I've put in a lot of hard work over the past 12 months, just working that little bit harder, just those tiny little differences that separate a top-five finish from a win,” McIlroy said.

After this five-week blitz, McIlroy will get two weeks off to prepare for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. He’ll be looking for his fifth major, and he’s craving for more.

“I’ve got off to a good start, three wins already this season,” McIlroy said in Wentworth. “I would be disappointed if I wasn’t to win one of the next three majors. I think that’s really what determines a good or a great season for me these days.”

McIlroy feels really good about where his game’s at today.

“I think I'm pretty close to playing my best golf,” McIlroy said. “I'm definitely able to feel more equipped to win now.”

That ought to motivate Spieth, Fowler and everyone else trying to catch the world No. 1.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.