Skip to main content

New No.1 McIlroy turns his attention to Augusta after Honda Classic triumph

March 6, 2012 -- Updated 0935 GMT (1735 HKT)
Rory McIlroy shows what it means to be new world no 1 after holing his winning putt at the Honda Classic.
Rory McIlroy shows what it means to be new world no 1 after holing his winning putt at the Honda Classic.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New no.1 Rory McIlroy targets Masters success at Augusta
  • McIlroy led last year at Augusta before disastrous final round
  • He believes return to form of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson good for the game
  • McIlroy defends top ranking at WGC tournament at Doral this week

(CNN) -- Fresh from becoming world no.1 for the first time, Rory McIlroy is predicting "exciting times" for golf as the world's top players hit peak form ahead of the Masters at Augusta.

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland is only too aware that his reign at the top of the rankings could be brief with deposed no.1 Luke Donald and no.3 Lee Westwood both capable of dislodging him after this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Florida.

McIlroy will take three weeks off after that tournament to focus on the opening major of the season, desperate to erase the disappointment of last year when he led for 63 holes before imploding on the back nine on the final day.

But he recognizes that he will face a big challenge from a revived Tiger Woods, who pushed him all the way in the Honda Classic with a stunning final round 62 at PGA National, and three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson, who won at Pebble Beach last month.

"I think it's fantastic for the game," McIlroy told gathered reporters after his latest triumph in Florida.

"To see what Phil did at Pebble, to see Tiger playing like he did today.

Everyone is excited for Augusta and I'm looking forward to getting back there and giving it another shot
Rory McIlroy

"Everyone is excited for Augusta and I'm looking forward to getting back there and giving it another shot."

Both Donald, who won the money lists in Europe and the United States last season, and fellow Englishman Westwood, whose brilliant closing 63 at PGA National left him fourth behind McIlroy, will be desperate to win their first major titles next month.

Reigning champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa is also running into form with a tied fifth finish Sunday.

But according to McIlroy's compatriot Graeme McDowell, they all have work to do to match his stablemate.

"He's the best player I've ever seen tee-to-green, period," McDowell told the official PGA Tour website.

"I didn't have a chance to play with Tiger in the early to mid 2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best."

Former U.S. Open champion McDowell believes McIlroy's improvements on the greens, he holed a series of clutch putts on Sunday, has made the difference.

"As soon as he learned how to putt, he was going to be a dominating force," McDowell said. "You're starting to see that now."

McIlroy flew to New York to see his girlfriend and former tennis no.1 Caroline Wozniacki after his latest win, but when he returns to Florida for this week's tournament on the famous Blue Monster course it will be with a renewed self-belief.

"I always felt like when I played my best, I would be hard to beat," McIlroy said.

"I feel like I've always been a pretty confident guy. But I think I've got a lot more belief in myself now when I'm going down the stretch. I definitely don't doubt myself as much as I used to."

He will be hoping that confidence extends to the Masters where he will look to add to his U.S. Open triumph at Congressional last June.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
The next generation of golfers just keeps on getting younger. "They have the confidence to perform against their idols," says one ex-prodigy.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
He was Spain's ultimate matador and golf's greatest escape artist.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Rory McIlroy has announced he wants to represent Ireland at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Two-time major champion Rory McIlroy declares he'll represent Ireland at the Rio Olympics, not Great Britain.
April 29, 2014 -- Updated 0248 GMT (1048 HKT)
Already admired by Annika Sorenstam and with a bucketful of talent, New Zealand's Lydia Ko has the world of golf at her feet.
April 28, 2014 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT)
Mike O'Connor, UK FootGolf
Like footie? Partial to a bit of golf? Then you'll love FootGolf. The sport's growing fan base includes a host of former English Premier League stars.
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
Golfers at at Barkway Park don't seem to concerned and have been taking pictures and videos of the bird when it appears on the greens and fairways.
A runaway ostrich-like bird hiding near an English golf course has caused quite a stir. Some say it's dangerous, while others are cashing in.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Eagles may be thin on the ground for most golfers at the Bear Trace course at Harrison Bay. But up in the treetops, it's a different matter.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
When someone tells you to go jump in a lake, sometimes it's best to take their advice. "I've never been so scared," says golfer Pablo Larrazabal.
Bubba Watson is the Masters king, but can he win a major away from Augusta? Living Golf's Shane O'Donoghue has the lowdown.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1412 GMT (2212 HKT)
Arnold Palmer
Arnold Palmer won his first major at Augusta, played there with the U.S. President and made a record 50 consecutive Masters appearances.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1202 GMT (2002 HKT)
He is remembered for designing one of the world's most famous golf courses, but the man behind Augusta died pleading to be paid.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1004 GMT (1804 HKT)
Take a trip around Augusta. From Eisenhower's toppled tree to the fiendishly-difficult Amen Corner, the Masters' home venue has it all.
ADVERTISEMENT