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.
“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.