(Reuters) - Rory McIlroy believes becoming golf’s world number one has lifted his game to new heights and that he will be hard to beat at next month’s Singapore Open.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman heads a quality field at the $6 million tournament from November 8-11 that also includes American Phil Mickelson and three-times winner Adam Scott of Australia.
World number 12 Louis Oosthuizen will also be among the contenders at the Sentosa Golf Club, but a confident McIlroy feels his A-game trumps that of his rivals.
“The status (of being world number one) adds pressure but it’s one that I thrive on,” McIlroy, who won his second major at this year’s U.S. PGA Championship, said in a statement.
“I know I can be hard to beat when I‘m at my best, so I go into every tournament knowing that if I play well then I have a good chance of winning.”
McIlroy finished runner-up at the BMW Masters in Shanghai at the weekend.
”People expect me to play well, and I expect myself to play better,“ he said. ”To call myself a multiple major winner and world number one, it’s great.
“I knew that I was good enough to achieve this at some stage,” added McIlroy, who helped Europe beat the United States in an astonishing Ryder Cup comeback win last month.
“I‘m a bit surprised that it has happened already when I‘m still 23. My target now is always to win my next tournament, win my next major, keep improving all areas of my game.”
McIlroy underlined his status as the golf’s top player with a runaway eight-stroke victory at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August.
He is also close to winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with a near 1 million euros ($1.29 million) lead and has the PGA Tour money title sewn up having banked more than $8 million.
“I‘m leading the Race to Dubai and it’s definitely my goal to finish there at the end of the season,” said McIlroy, bidding to emulate Luke Donald, who topped the Order of Merit on both sides of the Atlantic last season.
”I need to have a strong end to the season in order to win both orders of merit titles.
“A good performance in Singapore will certainly help my chances, so hopefully I can go a few better than my fourth place finish there in 2008.”
McIlroy currently leads Sweden’s Peter Hanson by 812,572 euros going into the Singapore Open, co-sanctioned by the Asian and European tours.
“I definitely feel like I have more responsibilities,” McIlroy said, looking down from the peak of the world rankings with a healthy lead over 14-times major winner Tiger Woods.
”I always dreamt of winning golf tournaments, of winning Majors and of reaching world number one. What I have always done is give myself targets - realistic ones.
“It took me a while to get used to handling more attention, more pressure, more scrutiny when you are expected to play well. But I’ve learned how to handle winning big events.” ($1 = 0.7733 euros)
Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Patrick Johnston