Rory McIlroy feels ready to defend his Players Championship title this week having joined Tiger Woods and Greg Norman as the longest-serving world No.1s since the rankings began.
McIlroy’s tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida means he will amass 100 total weeks as golf’s top dog.
It is the third-highest tally behind golf greats Tiger Woods (683) and Australia’s Greg Norman (331) since the rankings were created in 1986.
McIlroy started the final day at Orlando’s Bay Hill course just two behind eventual winner Tyrrell Hatton, but never threatened the Englishman with a four-over 76 to drop to even-par.
However, four-time major champion McIlroy is looking at the bright side.
The 30-year-old is in a rich vein of form not unlike his run into the elite Players Championship last year, when he won golf’s unofficial fifth major at TPC Sawgrass.
Since winning the Tour Championship in August, McIlroy has eight top-five results from 10 worldwide starts.
But his only victory in that stretch was the World Golf Championship event in China.
“There have been a lot of chances (to win that I’m not) not converting, but I know the game’s pretty much there and I’ll just keep knocking on the door,” said McIlroy, who finished no worse than sixth in the five events leading up to the 2019 Players Championship.
McIlroy also has one eye fixed firmly on the Masters at Augusta National which begins in less than five weeks.
Given he has two US PGA Championship wins, a US Open title and a British Open trophy, McIlroy needs the Masters to complete golf’s coveted career grand slam.
Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only players to have achieved that feat.
McIlroy says his game will not require too much sharpening to contend at Augusta.
“I’m driving it well,” he said. “Maybe just my mid-range putting between 12 and 20 feet (needs work).
“I’m holing out pretty well for the most part, but I’m giving myself a lot of chances and not converting that many of them.
“That’s pretty much (all I need to fix).”