Rory McIlroy targets Colin Montgomerie’s European number one haul

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Rory McIlroy secured the European number one spot for the fourth time – and his first since 2015 – after finishing fourth at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

Rory McIlroy says he will aim to get closer to Colin Montgomerie’s record of eight European number one spots after securing the 2022 title on Sunday.

McIlroy’s fourth place at the DP World Tour Championship secured him the Harry Vardon Trophy for the fourth time – and his first since 2015.

He is the second man – after Henrik Stenson in 2013 – to top the PGA Tour and European rankings in the same year.

“I know Monty won eight of these things,” McIlroy, 30, told BBC Sport.

“Hopefully I can keep on the journey and try and get close to him.”

However, the Northern Irishman admits that matching, let alone bettering the Scot’s record haul, will be a tall order.

‘Increasingly difficult’ to top both tours – McIlroy

“It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to win both season-long races,” added McIlroy, who reclaimed the world number one spot by winning the CJ Cup title on the PGA Tour last month.

“That’s why I’m even more proud to do so this year. I’m played some really consistent golf.

“After the American season was done at the end of August, I really made it a priority to come back over to Europe and play and try and win the DP World Tour rankings and thankfully I was able to do that.”

McIlroy’s latest Race to Dubai triumph sees him moving to third on the honours board in European Tour history behind the eight and six titles achieved by Montgomerie and Seve Ballesteros.

The world number one’s 2022 success moves him beyond the three titles achieved by Lee Westwood, Sandy Lyle and Peter Oosterhuis.

Perhaps surprisingly, Sir Nick Faldo only clinched the then European Order of Merit title in 1983 and 1992.

Rory McIlroy with caddie Harry Diamond on the final green at this year's Open Championship at St Andrews
McIlroy looked set to end his eight-year winless major run at this year’s Open Championship but had to settle for third place

But while McIlroy is keen to at least threaten Montgomerie’s haul, he acknowledged at Sunday’s tournament presentation ceremony that breaking his eight-year winless run in the majors will be his main target in 2023 after contending in all four this year.

After being runner-up at the Masters in April and finishing in the top 10 at the US PGA and US Open, McIlroy shared the lead going into the final day of the Open Championship at St Andrews only to have to settle for third two shots behind winner Cameron Smith.

“I played consistently good golf. Had a great chance to win at St Andrew’s. Had two good chances to win the US PGA and the US Open as well I thought and a great finish at Augusta so I just need to continue that momentum that I’ve found in the majors and bring that into 2023.”

But in the meantime, McIlroy is looking forward to some relaxation over the coming weeks after a hectic year which saw him in many ways become the unofficial spokesman for the mainstream professional golf order amid the threat posed by the breakaway LIV Golf circuit.

“I don’t think even I’ve given it enough thought just to think about everything I’ve been involved with this year.

“The playing side…the non-playing side and everything that’s gone on in the world of golf this year. It’s been three years in one in a way.

“That’s how it’s felt. I’m looking for some down time and getting away from it for a little bit.”

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