PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland – Tiger Woods taught Rory McIlory to be ruthless, the Northern Irishman revealed on the eve of the $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
McIlroy has won four major championships, been world number one, has nine PGA Tour and nine European Tour wins outside the majors. He’s won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai three times and is the reigning FedEx Cup winner.
He owes a lot of that success to learning to be as ruthless and selfish as Woods was in his prime.
“It’s not about not playing you’re best,” McIlroy said. “It’s realising it’s okay to be a winner. It’s okay to have that mind‑set and it’s okay to be a little selfish.
“I guess when it really sort of hit home with me was like when Tiger had the whole scandal thing in ’09 and ’10 and he came back, and obviously there was a lot of talk going on. But he got into contention at Augusta when he came back, and people loved it, and people loved that he might win and people loved that he was a winner.
“And after everything went down, I was like, people like winners. People like people that are successful, and it’s okay to be one of those people. It’s okay to have that ruthless streak.
“It just sort of hit home with me – you don’t have to feel guilty about it. You don’t have to feel like you’re selfish or you’re better. It’s that you want to win. The reason we practise and we work hard is because you want to win golf tournaments and hopefully put your name in the history books, and sort of when it hit home with me, I said, it’s okay to have that mind‑set.”
McIlroy is currently the world’s number four player – “Back to Ringo,” he joked – but feels no need to try to force his way back to top spot and dethrone Dustin Johnson from the top of the official world golf ranking.
“Does it bother me? 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.
“Winning golf tournaments and playing well takes care of the rankings.
“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. Then just playing well takes care of a lot of that stuff.”
McIlroy can make inroads on Johnson’s number one status with a repeat win in his national championship. The local favourite is a 6-1 favourite to become the first player to successfully defend the Irish Open since Colin Montgomerie in 1997.