November 23, 2014 / 4:07 PM / 3 years ago

McIlroy eyes green jacket after stellar 2014

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his shot from the second tee during the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai November 23, 2014.Nikhil Monteiro

DUBAI (Reuters) - As he picked up the European money list trophy for the second time in three seasons on Sunday, Rory McIlroy had two words to say when asked for his goals for 2015: "Green Jacket".

To golfers, that phrase means one thing -- winning the U.S. Masters, the only major championship to elude the Northern Irishman.

"It's not something I thought possible, I will work hard and make sure I'm ready for that," McIlroy told reporters after tying for second at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the European Tour season-ender.

Winning in Augusta will be tough -- no European has done it since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999 -- yet world number one McIlroy is well equipped to end the drought after a season in which he claimed a maiden British Open title, a second U.S. PGA crown and two other European Tour victories.

"In terms of ball striking, I've driven it better, which is a huge part of my game," McIlroy told reporters.

"When I drive it well I can give myself shorter irons into greens and more opportunities for birdies. My mid-range putting has been very good this year."

The 25-year-old admitted the pressure of being the world's best had been difficult to handle.

"I used to be uncomfortable. There's added scrutiny and there's added criticism," said McIlroy. "But I learned to deal with it. It's just part of the title. I want to keep it for as long as I possibly can."

McIlroy's 2014 resurgence happened despite off-course dramas. He split up with his fiancee, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and is involved in a legal dispute with his former agents which led him to miss some tournaments.

"I learned a lot from it. I feel I came through this year stronger and wiser and can go into 2015 in a much better place," said McIlroy.

He said he was encouraged to finish just adrift of Dubai winner Henrik Stenson despite three undistinguished rounds following Thursday's opening 66.

"It's a really big positive, not just going into next year, but the rest of my career," McIlroy added.

"In seasons gone by, a bad week for me would have been middle of the pack or if there was a cut, maybe battling to make the cut."

Editing by Ian Chadband

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