Rory McIlroy may be the top billing at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Championship at Portstewart Golf Club, but he has the desire to be World Number One again.
McIlroy will begin the defence of his ‘National’ title, hosted by the Rory Foundation, on the North Coast venue this afternoon.
Yesterday he laughed off the return of an unflattering description of his place in golf’s ‘Fab Four’ and insists he would obviously like to regain top billing.
McIlroy’s most recent spell as world number one started after he followed victory in the 2014 Open with another in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but ended a year later after he returned from being sidelined with an ankle injury suffered playing football.
The 28-year-old had slipped to fourth behind Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day ahead of the 2016 Open, which prompted one newspaper to suggest he was in danger of becoming Ringo Starr in golf’s version of the Beatles.
Almost exactly a year later, McIlroy again finds himself fourth in the rankings - this time behind Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Spieth.
“Back to Ringo,” McIlroy said with a laugh when the subject was raised in his pre-tournament press conference.
“Does it bother me? Yeah, look, it bothers me I’m not where I want to be. But I feel like there’s been a couple of things that have been out of my control this year that have led to that with the injuries and stuff.
“Like I’ve said all along, winning golf tournaments and playing well takes care of the rankings.
“It’s funny, I don’t look at it as much now as I would if I was number one. If I was Dustin Johnson, I would be looking at that thing every Monday morning.
“I know where I am and I realise that I’m a long way off where I want to be, but I can’t think about that at the minute. I just have to think about trying to win golf tournaments, trying to get in contention again at golf tournaments, first of all.”
McIlroy’s last win was hardly a long time ago, victory in the Tour Championship last September seeing him claim the overall FedEx Cup title and the USD10million bonus.
But a rib injury suffered testing equipment over the winter means the Northern Irishman has played just eight events in 2017 and he trails Johnson by almost five points in the rankings.
Other Northern Ireland golfers looking to take the title away from McIlroy when the Irish Open teed off at 7.30am this morning are Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey.
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