The Northern Irishman tees it up at this week's Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player at eighth in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, just under two million points behind leader Francesco Molinari.
That means even back-to-back victories would leave McIlroy short should Molinari finish second on his own or tied with one other at next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
With that in mind, McIlroy has nothing to lose over the closing fortnight of the season, and he is looking for a big week at Gary Player Country Club.
“I'm coming here with the goal, if I can get into that final group on Thursday with Frankie next week, that would be a good start,” he said.
“I'm going to need some great golf over the next two weeks but we'll see what happens this week. I feel like my game's in pretty good shape. I didn't play great in China but a week off and just sort of reflecting on things, hopefully I can get off to a good start this week.”
McIlroy has yet to win on the European Tour this season but has five top fives in his 11 appearances, including second places at the Dubai Desert Classic, BMW PGA Championship and Open Championship.
With four Major Championships and nine other European Tour victories on his CV, McIlroy has no reason to be concerned by his mini-drought, although he is eager to get back into the winner's circle.
“I've played good golf, I've played consistent golf,” he said. “I've played in six final groups this year and I haven't had a win out of any of those final groups. I think I played in four final groups in the previous two years combined, so it's better.
“I probably let a few slip through my fingers in terms of tournaments won: Dubai earlier this year, Wentworth a little bit, Masters obviously. There's a few I feel like I could have challenged a bit more for.
I'm going to need some great golf over the next two weeks but we'll see what happens this week - Rory McIlroy
“Overall it's been a consistent year. I've improved my World Ranking since the start of the year, I have a chance to get back into the top five this week and next week and it would be a solid year.
“It wouldn't have been the year that I would have envisioned at the start but you're not going to have those years every single year that you play. All I can do is just keep practising and working hard and hopefully the results come.”
McIlroy played two rounds at this event in 2009 when it had a 12-man field but withdrew after two rounds and has yet to win in South Africa.
He came close at last season's BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni and is delighted to be back on African soil.
“I have very fond memories of the SA Open at Glendower,” he said. “It was one of the coolest weeks I've had on Tour with just the scenes and the play-off and the crowds coming up 18.
“I came obviously very close to a win that week and didn't quite get it done. It would be nice to get a win down here finally.”