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'I'd love to give myself a chance to win all 4 majors next year' - Rory McIlroy

The Northern Ireland golfer opened up in an end-of-year chat about his USPGA win, the Olympics and watching Katie Taylor’s win on an iPad.

Rory McIlroy celebrates his US PGA win in August.
Rory McIlroy celebrates his US PGA win in August.
Image: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

RORY MCILROY SET his sights on capturing the world number one spot in 2012 and, within three months, he had achieved it.

The Northern Ireland golfer had major ambitions too but he was forced to wait until the US PGA in August before he could add to the US Open major he clinched in 2011.

McIlroy tells Greg Allen, in an interview to be aired by RTÉ on 27 December, that he wants to be in a position to win all four majors next year and he does not mind if a resurgent Tiger Woods pushes him all the way.

This year, the Holywood native confirmed his status as a player that can take up the mantle of world’s best from Woods.

His relationship with Caroline Wozniacki, contract wrangling with sponsors and focus on his country of preference for the 2016 Olympics have detracted at times from McIlroy’s genuine talent but 2012 ended as it began – with the young golfer lifting trophies.

World number one

In March, McIlroy looked set for another title coronation, at the Honda Classic in Florida, before Tiger Woods began to drop birdies and eagles in a stunning round of 62.

McIlroy reined in his expansive long game as he protected his lead and attempted to hold off the charging Woods.

He said, “It was the first time I’ve won with maybe not my best game; not hitting it close all the time.

I had to get it up and down a few times down the stretch and I was able to do that. Especially with Tiger chasing me down. It was the first time that had ever really happened as well.

“I felt a bit of pressure coming in but I played the smart golf I needed to get the job done. It was a great moment.”

McIlroy and England’s Luke Donald traded the ranking top spot for four months before the Northern Irishman emerged from a mini slump of four missed cuts from five tournaments to streak clear.

However, McIlroy admits, “I’ll always cherish my major championship victories more than a ranking. For me, they are the benchmark of a great player.”

Major win number two

McIlroy admits he was ‘sort of going through the motions for a month or so’ before he refocused and found form at the World Golf Championships in Akron, Ohio.

It was perfectly timed for an assault on the US PGA Championship.

“I got to Kiawah Island on Monday and had a good feeling,” he said. “I like the greens, I like the setting, on the ocean.

“I was playing well, I was hitting the ball as well as I was all year and I was holing putts. That combination, for me, is always going to work.”

An opening round 67 put the 23-year-old in the mix on the leaderboard but Kiawah Island bared its teeth on day two. McIlroy said:

Friday was a big day for me as it was really windy, really getting up. I could have let the round get away from me but I shot a 75 which, on that day, was a pretty good score.

“That set me up for the rest of the tournament.”

Rain delays meant McIlroy, and most of the field, had to finish of their third rounds on the final day. He went on a birdie streak that continued into the final round.

“From there, [Ian] Poulter was chasing me a little bit but I just made birdies when I needed to.”

The evolution of McIlroy’s short game was clear from an excellent up and down from a greenside bunker, on 10, and the 25-putt to seal the win, on 18.

YouTube credit: itsreloadz

McIlroy recalled, “I said to JP, my caddy, on the 18th tee ‘Ok, we won the US Open by eight shots. Let’s try to win this by eight shots too.”

Watching Katie on YouTube

McIlroy watched the Olympic Gold Medal win of Katie Taylor on the Thursday before his major win. The magic was viewed via his iPad in his rental house at Kiawah.

He said, “Obviously there was a huge buzz around Katie and a huge expectation on her as well. She was expected to win.

Actually, I tuned in, I saw the semi-final on YouTube because they said that was the loudest they had heard it in the [ExCel] arena or the Olympics. I just said ‘I’ve got to see this, I’ve got to see this atmosphere’.

It was just amazing because you could sense how much joy that brought to the Irish people. She’s a great girl. Every time that I’ve met her she has been so nice and so humble.

“Her achievements are incredible. As I said, to be expected to win a gold medal at the Olympics and to go ahead and do it is a phenomenal achievement.”

Rio 2016

Talk of the Olympics inevitably mean a question about the Holywood man’s intentions for Rio 2016. McIlroy has previously indicated that he would favour representing Great Britain but his mind is not yet  made up.

“It’s a tough one,” he said. “Being from Northern Ireland, I guess, brings its own difficulties in a way when you have to choose who to play for or an allegiance.

“I know that people before me have had to deal with this problem. It’s a difficult position to be in because you don’t want to let anyone down.

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“You don’t want to upset anyone with the choice that you make because I feel I’m more than just a flag. I’m more than… I play golf and I’m an international sportsman – it doesn’t tie me to one flag or one allegiance. It’s been a tough position to be put into.”

Ryder Cup

McIlroy has no qualms about playing under the European flag. His final day win over Keegan Bradley, after he showed up 10 minutes before tee-off on the final day, was part of a spectacular singles figh-back by Europe.

He partnered Poulter in the Saturday afternoon fourball. McIlroy kick-started the comeback with a birdie on 13 before Poulter, and his clutch putting, took over to deliver a vital point. McIlroy said:

We were in better spirits than the American team because they, on the Saturday night, had a chance to win the Ryder Cup; to build an insurmountable lead and to go out and win a couple of matches on Sunday and win the trophy.

“To go from [the prospect] of 10-4 to 10-6, we had a chance. We had belief and that’s all we needed.”

McIlroy was “scared” during a mad rush to the course that was sparked when he mistook US Eastern Time for Central Time.

McIlroy is presented with an extra large alarm clock. (RTÉ screengrab)

“Luckily,” McIlroy continued, “there was a State Trooper waiting for me in the lobby of the hotel who gave me a police escort on the way to the course. If it wasn’t for him, if I wasn’t in that car, I wouldn’t have made that tee time.”

“Once I hit my first tee shot, I calmed down. I thought ‘If I can go through the first six holes all square I’ll be fine’. I went through the first six holes two-up. I played my best golf of the week and beat Bradley, who was their best player.”

Grand slam hopes

McIlroy is enjoying some time away from the game over the festive season but he has already set his sights on a trophy-filled 2013.

“[A career Grand Slam] is something I’ve thought about,” he said.

I’ve got the Masters and the Open, still, to win. I said at the start of this year if I didn’t win a major I’d be disappointed and I’ll say that again, going into 2013… I’d love to give myself a chance to win all four next year.”

Woods has shown glimpses of his former form and McIlroy would be happy to have the American with him for final round company.

He said, “I hope can keep up the level of golf I’m playing at at the moment and I hope he does too and to have some battles, coming down the stretch, with Tiger in majors.”

*The full interview will be broadcast in a special programme on RTÉ Two on Thursday 27 December at 9pm

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Patrick McCarry

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