Rory McIlroy is itching to get back into the winner’s circle at a World Golf Championships event as he prepares to tee it up at this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions.
The Northern Irishman won his second and latest WGC event in 2015 and since then has had nine top tens in the tournaments, including a fourth top five at Sheshan International Golf Club in 2016.
“WGCs are some of the biggest tournaments we play. It’s always the strongest fields. You’re playing against the best players in the world. To win those events, it means that you’ve done something very well.
“I played well in WGCs this year. I had a good chance to win in Mexico, finished second. Had a chance to win in Memphis, didn’t quite get over the line there, Brooks (Koepka) played very well on that last day. And actually played okay on the Match Play, ended up being beaten by Tiger (Woods).
“I’ve always enjoyed WGCs. I think it was a real thrill to get into those fields for the first time and then to progress and to win a couple of them and be in contention in some of them.”
10.50am: Schauffele, McIlroy, Rose— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 30, 2019
10.40am: Wiesberger, Lowry, Finau
10.10am: Willett, Watson, Wallace
Tee times ⏰ #WGCHSBCChampions
McIlroy has won three times on the US PGA Tour this season and moved up to number two in the Official World Golf Ranking but has not yet added to his impressive tally of European Tour wins.
Having spent 95 weeks of his career ranked as the world’s best, he is eager to get back to that position and to continue his climb this week.
“I started this year maybe eighth or ninth in the world. If I play well the next few weeks, I’ll have a great platform going into next year.”
Meanwhile, Justin Rose is eyeing a late dash to Race to Dubai glory as he returns to happy hunting ground at Sheshan International Golf Club.
“It’s been a good little hunting ground for me the last couple of years and it’s a golf course I really enjoy.”
The Englishman lifted the trophy in Shanghai two years ago and went on to win the Turkish Airlines Open the following week, setting up a grandstand finish to his European Tour campaign. The Race to Dubai went right down the back nine on the final Sunday of the season, with Rose edged out by Tommy Fleetwood in the race for the Harry Vardon Trophy.
“I was so close to getting it done and just sort of stumbled bit on the Sunday. When I look back at it, it was a lot to ask. Winning in Shanghai, winning in Turkey and then I was pretty much right there in Dubai.”
At 29th in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, Rose knows he will need a similarly impressive finish to challenge again but he is not afraid of the challenge, with this week followed by three Rolex Series events.
“With the way the points are weighted with the prize fund in Turkey and Dubai, it offers me the opportunity to make a run. I’ve probably got to win the last three to challenge Shane (Lowry) and Jon Rahm and the guys that are doing really well but that’s the situation I put myself in in 2017 and I very nearly did it.”
Also teeing it up this week are former Open Champion Francesco Molinari, defending champion Xander Schauffele and 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry.
“It’s nice to come back every year and knowing that it’s going to get better year after year,” said Molinari. “The course is world-class. Everything about the event is world-class really. I think that’s why you see some of the world’s best players coming back every season.
“It’s been a learning year, especially since April, obviously things have not gone how I was hoping. I’m just trying to learn from how it’s been and get back where I was at the beginning of the season or last year. Still a busy stretch coming these next five weeks, all big tournaments and it would be nice to finish the year well and build some momentum going into next season so that it doesn’t feel like I have to start from scratch next year.”