Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy says he’s ‘capable of being the best the player in the world’ after winning 20th PGA Tour title • World No2 ends 19-year wait for victory on his adopted home course
• McIlroy won four years ago in the same event Rory McIlroy says he is ‘capable of being the best player in the world’ after winning the Dubai Desert Classic. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy said he was capable of being the best player in the world after claiming his 20th victory in the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday. McIlroy put down what he called an “unexpected problem” to down childhood idol Ernie Els, twice a winner of the tournament, on the final day.
McIlroy looked to be close to home in finishing two shots clear on 12 under par, with Els a further two shots behind. McIlroy was there to accept his trophy and the galleries that flocked to witness the triumph included his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.
The Northern Irishman talked of his recent anxiety, which he described as like “vegetarianism”. It was a metaphor used in the US in the 1980s by doctors looking to try to cure food addiction.
McIlroy said he had just wanted to get his golf back to the highest standard, despite being on track to overtake the late Seve Ballesteros and become the youngest golfer to top the rankings at 24. “I felt like I was being carried around,” he said. “I felt like I was going to fall asleep on the golf course. I know that sounds silly but that is what I was feeling – like the golf course was bigger than me and I wasn’t going to be able to play to the best of my ability because I didn’t feel right out there.”
While a victory would be enough to get McIlroy to No1 it could be enough to reset his all-time record to just shy of a career grand slam. McIlroy’s half of the PGA Championship has yet to be completed and he is tied for the lead with Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm.
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The world No2 has not won a major since his victory at The Open in 2014. Yet he has been in dominant form since September, winning three times – including his maiden US PGA Championship title – and coming joint runner-up four times.
The last of those victories at Oakmont was used by McIlroy as a springboard for what he described as “a magical season”.
“I’m enjoying playing the way I am playing,” McIlroy said. “I’m feeling good about everything. I’m feeling healthy and focused. I think I’m capable of being the best player in the world for quite a while. And I need to believe that. And this year is hopefully the year that I get back on top.”
Els had been among the contenders after claiming top spot with a five-under par 66 in round three, only to be overtaken on the final day by the 27-year-old Irishman. “I was looking up the leaderboard at 8 o’clock and there were some big names there and just was like ‘wow’,” McIlroy said. “So I actually had to move my tee shot to hit a long iron and hit the one I had to hit before – I’m not joking about that – so I was very glad I was able to do that.”