McIl­roy head­lines loaded WGC field in Shanghai

The Korea Times - - SPORTS -

SHANGHAI (AFP) — World num­ber two Rory McIl­roy said his strong­est sea­son in years has mo­ti­vated him to re­cap­ture golf’s top rank­ing, as he leads a field packed with Ma­jor win­ners into this week’s WGC-HSBC Cham­pi­ons in Shanghai.

Asia’s big­gest event tees off Thurs­day without world num­ber one Brooks Koepka, out with a knee strain, nor a re­ju­ve­nated Tiger Woods, who elec­tri­fied golf with a record-ty­ing 82nd PGA Tour win in Ja­pan on Mon­day.

But an event dubbed “Asia’s Ma­jor” still fea­tures of plenty of star power in­clud­ing 15 past Ma­jor cham­pi­ons such as Justin Rose, Bubba Wat­son, Ser­gio Gar­cia, Phil Mick­el­son, Jor­dan Spi­eth, Pa­trick Reed, and Adam Scott.

But few are play­ing as well as McIl­roy, the 2019 FedEx Cup cham­pion and PGA Tour Player of the Year, who won the Tour Cham­pi­onship event in Au­gust and tied for third be­hind Woods at the Zozo Cham­pi­onship in Ja­pan two days ago.

The 30-year-old North­ern Ir­ish­man’s stel­lar sea­son has pro­pelled him up the world golf rank­ings, and although a vic­tory in Shanghai won’t push him past the ab­sent Koepka, McIl­roy said he’s not fin­ished.

“I want to get as many world rank­ing points as I pos­si­bly can and try to close that gap on num­ber one,” he said at She­shan In­ter­na­tional Golf Club.

“So you know, pretty mo­ti­vated com­ing into the week.” That mo­ti­va­tion might have been juiced by Koepka, who this month dis­missed the no­tion of a bur­geon­ing ri­valry with McIl­roy by point­ing out that the North­ern Ir­ish­man hadn’t won a Ma­jor in five years.

McIl­roy, who last sat on golf’s pin­na­cle four years ago, sub­se­quently played down the com­ments, say­ing that Koepka had a point, and that the two were “good friends”.

The North­ern Ir­ish­man had staked his claim to be among the world’s best with four Ma­jors be­fore the age of 25, un­til younger stars eclipsed him.

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