PALM BEACH GARDENS (AFP) – World number one Rory McIlroy, preparing for his 2015 US PGA Tour debut, is relishing his role as the dominant player in golf.
“Of course I want to be that guy,” McIlroy said. “I said it last year, golf is waiting for someone like that to step forward, put their hand up and win the big tournaments. This is the position I want to be in, and I want to be in it as long as I can.”
The Northern Irishman, whose appearance at this week’s Honda Classic launches his build up to the Masters, will be gunning for a third straight major title at Augusta National in April.
A victory there would give him a career Grand Slam by the age of 25.
With 14-time major champion Tiger Woods’ season in limbo after back pain forced him out of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines earlier this month, McIlroy is under even more scrutiny.
But he said Wednesday he’s happy with his role.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I would be wasting my time if I was out there practicing as much as I do and putting as much into it if I didn’t want to be in this position.”
McIlroy is coming off a victory in the Dubai Desert Classic three weeks ago.
After competing this week at PGA National he’ll play in the World Golf Championships event at Doral and then tee it up for the first time in his career at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill before tackling Augusta.
“I feel like I’ve got a nice schedule going into Augusta,” he said. “I’m not playing too much, but I’m playing just enough that I should be as sharp as possible going in there.”
McIlroy said piling up more major wins isn’t his only focus.
“I’ve got a few goals in mind,” he said. “I’ve got nine PGA Tour wins, which in two or three years isn’t too bad. It’s pretty good, but I want to make that a lot more.
“I’ve been on a good run over the past sort of six months, especially finishing off the European Tour last year and into this year where I’ve been first or second, seven events,” McIlroy said, saying he wants to have the kind of consistency that makes him the man to beat every time he tees it up.
McIlroy appeared on course for a wire-to-wire victory here last year, holding the outright lead after each of the first three rounds before struggling to a four-over 74 on the final day.
He made it into a four-man playoff that was won by American Russell Henley, who denied McIlroy another title in the tournament he won in 2012 to become number one in the world for the first time.
McIlroy is paired in the first two rounds with big-hitting Americans Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
Henley will play alongside Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell.
McIlroy will tee it up Thursday with a major off-course headache behind him, after settling a case with his former management company.
“It’s so nice just to be able to focus on golf and put all my time and effort into that,” he said.