Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy says he is thriving on the pressure of being World Number One and reckons he will be “hard to beat” if he brings his “A game” to the star-studded US$6 million Barclays Singapore Open next month.
Super-confident McIlroy headlines a field of champions in Asia's richest National Open and believes he can outplay American superstar Phil Mickelson, three-time winner Adam Scott of Australia and World Number 12 Louis Oosthuizen at Sentosa Golf Club from November 8-11.
“The status (of being World Number One) adds pressure but it's something that I thrive on. People expect me to play well, and I expect myself to play better,” he said.
"I know that I can be hard to beat when I am at my best, so I go into every tournament knowing that if I play well then I have a good chance of winning. I will always feel that way no matter what my ranking.”
McIlroy has enjoyed an outstanding season highlighted by his runaway eight-stroke victory at the US PGA Championship and is in pole position to win the European Tour's Race to Dubai with winnings of €3,407,300.
He has already sewn up the PGA Tour money list with earnings of US$8,047,952 and is looking to match the feat of Luke Donald who won the Order of Merit titles on both sides of the Atlantic last season.
“I am leading the Race to Dubai at present and it is definitely my goal to finish there at the end of the season,” said McIlroy, who is €812,572 ahead of Sweden's Peter Hanson.
“It is very close at the top right now and I know that 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.”
The two-time Major winner said that his status in the game has brought with it added scrutiny but feels he is coping with it well.
“I definitely feel like I have more responsibilities and I'm a lot busier in tournament weeks than I used to be,”he said.
“It took me a while to get used to handling a little bit more attention, more pressure, more scrutiny when you are expected to play well heading into each tournament. But I've learned how to handle winning big events.”
McIlroy played the 2008 Barclays Singapore Open on an invitation and took a lot of confidence from his fourth place finish.
“I played really nicely in Singapore that year. It was early into my professional career, and I was still very much getting to grips with playing alongside the big names, players I have always looked up to,” he said.
“It gave me a lot of confidence, beating the likes of Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott and getting myself in the mix. It was sort of self-satisfaction week, to finish fourth in such a strong field.”
McIlroy said that he was keen to tee it up again at the Serapong Course and judge how far his game had come in four years.
“From what I remember of it the course certainly suited my eye, and I enjoyed the tough challenge it presented. I'm really looking forward to getting back there and see how my scores might compare to the player I was four years ago,” he said.
The 23 year old McIlroy feels that his good finish in the Barclays Singapore Open helped him believe that he was destined for the top.
“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.
“When I turned pro, my target was to get my European Tour card and I have to admit I surprised myself with how quickly I achieved that.
“My next target was to win my first tournament as a professional, and although I came close on a number of occasions, including in Singapore, I felt a win was a little overdue when it came at Dubai in 2009.
“It was my performances at events like Dubai, Singapore, and many others where I had top-five finishes in the strongest of fields that helped me believe I could win many more. I knew I was good enough.
“To now call myself a multiple Major winner and World Number One is great. I knew that I was good enough to achieve this at some stage, but yeah, 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 working hard and keep improving all areas of my game.”
This year marks the 49th staging of the Singapore Open which will be co-sanctioned by The European and Asian Tours.