The 33-year-old Northern Ireland star beat Patrick Reed by a stroke two weeks ago for his third career Dubai title, then came home to push his game to a peak level.
“I don’t feel like I’ve ever been as complete of a player as I am right now,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I feel like my base level now is just a little bit higher and a little more consistent.”
World number two Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, and Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm, who won two PGA events last month, can overtake McIlroy for the top spot with top-two efforts this week.
“I don’t like being number two,” Scheffler said. “I’d rather be number one.”
But McIlroy says he feels like he’s the world’s top player right now.
“I’m playing well. I feel like consistency-wise, I’ve been as good as I’ve been ever in my career,” McIlroy said.
“If you just look at my statistical categories, there’s no real glaring weaknesses there. I’ve worked really hard on that, to try to become a more well-rounded player. I think the results speak for themselves.”
McIlroy won his past two PGA starts, at last year’s Tour Championship and CJ Cup, and talks about winning 30 more career titles.
“I don’t think I should be up here if I thought my best days weren’t ahead of me. I can’t be… trying to win golf tournaments if I think the glory days are gone,” McIlroy said.
“I’ve won 30-whatever times around the world as a professional. There’s no reason I can’t double that number going forward. I truly believe that.”
McIlroy will have his first true taste of the rowdy Arizona desert crowd at TPC Scottsdale.
Only 5,000 spectators were allowed due to Covid safety issues in 2021, McIlroy’s only prior appearance at Phoenix. More than that will scream from the par-3 16th “coliseum” holes surrounding grandstands this week.
“I haven’t had the full experience of this event yet,” McIlroy said. “I’m looking forward to it this week in some ways, but it’s going to be an experience.”
The Phoenix Open was made one of the PGA’s select tournaments with an elevated purse and commitments from most top players to appear, moves made to help keep players from bolting to the richer events of the Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf League.
“This tournament is a wonderful spectacle for the game,” McIlroy said. “To have hundreds of thousands of fans at this event, I think it was obvious that this was one that needed to have that status.”
Alongside Super Bowl
McIlroy, a four-time major champion, can complete a career Grand Slam by winning the Masters in April. He also seeks his first major victory since 2014.
“There are certain areas of my game that I know if I can keep as strong and sharp as possible, it’ll help me achieve those goals,” McIlroy said.
Golf’s fight for number one shares a stage in Phoenix this week with the NFL Super Bowl showdown between Kansas City and Philadelphia.
“It’s amazing to have two of these huge events in the same city on the same weekend,” McIlroy said. “It’ll be interesting to see what Sunday is like with people obviously wanting to get to the Super Bowl.”
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