(Reuters) - World number two Rory McIlroy said he is motivated to get back into the winner’s circle at this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai to further his quest to reclaim golf’s top ranking.
After securing a tied-third finish at the Zozo Championship in Japan last week, McIlroy will return to action on Thursday at Sheshan International Golf Club, playing alongside American Xander Schauffele and England’s Justin Rose for the opening two rounds.
With world number one Brooks Koepka out of action with a knee strain, McIlroy knows a fourth title triumph of the year on Sunday could help him lay down a marker for next year.
“I want to get as many world ranking points as I possibly can and try to close that gap on the number one,” McIlroy, who has spent 95 weeks of his career ranked as the world’s best, told reporters on Wednesday.
“I started this year maybe eighth or ninth in the world. If I play well the next few weeks, I’ll have a great platform going into next year.”
McIlroy won his second and latest WGC event in 2015 and since then has had nine top 10 finishes in the tournaments, including a tied-fourth position in Shanghai in 2016.
“I’ve always enjoyed WGCs,” the Northern Irishman added. “I feel like the course suits my game and I like this tournament ever since I started coming here in 2009.”
The WGC (World Golf Championships), four events held annually, are the highest-ranking tournaments in golf behind the four majors and the Players Championship, and they offer comparable prize money.
Rose, who won the Shanghai event - dubbed Asia’s major - two years ago, is targeting another late surge in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings.
The title proved to be a springboard in the final phase of the 2017 season before he was edged out in the final round in Dubai by Tommy Fleetwood in the race for the Harry Vardon Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Race to Dubai.
Rose, 29th in this season’s European Tour money list, needs another run of strong results this season. This week’s tournament is followed by three Rolex Series events.
“It’s been a good little hunting ground for me the last couple of years and it’s a golf course I really enjoy,” he said of Shanghai.
“With the way the points are weighted with the prize fund in Turkey and Dubai, it offers me the opportunity to make a run.”
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond will make his WGC debut and lead the Asian charge at the event, which will feature 35 of the top 50 players in the world rankings.
“It’s always good each time you get a chance to step up your game and I’m just looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Pravin Char