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Rory McIlroy has his eye on Adam Scott's world No. 1 ranking and if you think it is not a priority for him, then think again.
The Northern Irishman has soared to No. 2 after his British Open Championship triumph at Royal Liverpool and his first chance to overtake Scott comes this week at the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
If McIlroy wins and the Australian finishes any worse than solo fifth place, the mantle will change hands.
Asked today by a journalist if it was relevant this week, McIlroy was unequivocal. "Yes, it is,'' he said. "World No.1 is a big goal of mine. I've never won a World Golf Championship, (and) that's another thing. I've got three majors but never won one of these. That's another thing I'd like to knock off the list, so there's a lot of stuff still to play for.''
McIlroy overtook Tiger Woods at No. 1 in March, 2012 and spent 39 weeks in the top slot over 2012-2013 before a dip in form conceded the ranking to Luke Donald, and then back to Tiger Woods. Scott reached the pinnacle of the rolling, two-year rankings for the first time in May this year and has held the mantle for the past 11 weeks. He is just the 17th man to hold the top position and the first Australian since Greg Norman in the 1990s.
Scott has been solid at No. 1, immediately winning the Crowne Plaza tournament at Colonial and in three starts since, he has been tied-fourth (the Memorial), tied-ninth (the US Open) and tied-fifth (Open Championship). But his place is in jeopardy from the rampant McIlroy and also from No. 3 ranked Henrik Stenson, who would climb to No. 1 this week if he won the WGC event and Scott finished worse than 40th.
As for McIlroy, he told reporters today that having secured his third major championship, a fourth was his main target. While Tiger Woods has his stated aim of overhauling Jack Nicklaus' landmark of 18 majors, McIlroy is ticking them off one at at a time. "The next number in my head is four,'' he said. "I've won three of them, I'd like to win my fourth, and that's it, and just try and keep going like that, just one after the other. And if it adds up to whatever number it adds up to in my career, then that's great. I don't want to put that pressure on myself. I don't want to put that burden of a number to try and attain.
"As I said, you need goals, but that's obviously— that's too much of a long–term goal. I'd like to set like shorter–term goals in terms of, even if it's trying to improve something in my game because then all those little short–term goals will help you achieve the long–term goal in the end.
The only number I'm worried about at the minute is four.''
Woods, who has won eight times at Firestone, has 14 major championships but none since the US Open in 2008. McIlroy says setting a huge target like Woods has done is not his way. "I know how many majors the greats of the game have won, but I never wanted to compare myself. I never wanted because it's not— if I go on to win whatever number it is, then that's great. At least at the end of my career, there's not going to be a disappointment. 'Oh, I wanted to get to 15, but I only got 12, bummer. You still got 12 majors, you know what I mean? I just don't want to end my career like that. I'd love to end my career with 12 majors, but I don't want it to be a disappointment.''
Scott is playing at 4.10am on Friday (AEST) with Bubba Watson. He won this tournament in 2011, his breakthrough win with Steve Williams on the bag. McIlroy goes at 12.40am (AEST) with Matt Kuchar. The other Australians in the field are John Senden, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, Marc Leishman and Jason Day.