Rory McIlroy has spent 95 weeks on top of the world golf ranking in his career, and he’s learned that it is not easy to stay there.
Fellow young stars such as Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are challenging him, and McIlroy is currently No. 2 in the world ranking. At age 26, McIlroy is the oldest of the four 20-somethings in the top five.
“I feel like right now my main rivals are the younger guys and the people that are playing week in, week out and putting in good performances,” McIlroy said. “I have to concentrate on myself and try to play the best that I can and hopefully that’s better than the people that are around me at the minute.
McIlroy said he believes younger players are ready to win as soon as they hit the PGA Tour. He said there is no adjustment period for players who go to college or take the amateur route before turning pro.
McIlroy won four times between the PGA and European tours last year and has three top-25 finishes in five PGA Tour starts this year.
His current goal is to have his game peak during the Masters in April.
“I think the Masters at this point of the year is on pretty much everyone’s mind,” he said. “You’re building up to it. You’ve got some great events in between now and then, but obviously I’d love my game to be in peak shape for Augusta in April.”
The Masters is the only major McIlroy has not won — he captured the U.S. Open in 2011, PGA Championship in 2012 and British Open and PGA in 2014 — but hopes to change that this year after finishing fourth in 2015. McIlroy’s four major championships are among 11 career wins on the PGA Tour.
“I’m very positive and optimistic going back to Augusta this year, because the last few years I’ve improved my performance there,” he said. “I’ve had my best finish last year, and I played the golf course pretty much the way I wanted to. … I stuck to the game plan and it worked out pretty well.”
McIlroy and his rivals face a busy schedule this year, with the Ryder Cup and Olympics Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro as well as the major tournaments.
“Well, from basically the U.S. Open until the Ryder Cup, it’s week on, week off, week on, week off, week on, week off,” McIlroy said. “I think a lot of guys will take some time off after (the Ryder Cup).”
McIlroy by the numbers
Career PGA Tour wins: 11
Career PGA Tour earnings: $29,011,544
World ranking: No. 2