Rory McIlroy buoyed by WGC-HSBC Champions victory, insisting he is excited for next year

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Rory McIlroy has earned over £20 million in prize money 2019 - 2019 Zhe Ji
Rory McIlroy has earned over £20 million in prize money 2019 - 2019 Zhe Ji

Brooks Koepka might have to revise his opinion about his 'non-rivalry' with Rory McIlroy, after the world No 2 won his first World Golf Championship trophy in four years before declaring that he expects next year to be even better than his annus majorablis of 2014.

It was a bold claim by the 30-year-old, considering the fact that he knocked off the Open and US PGA back then. But then, if you cannot display a bit of bravado in the wake of a WGC HSBC Champions glory, after winning your fourth title of the campaign and notching up your 11th top-five finish, then when can you?

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And the manner of McIlroy’s 27th career victory also inspired confidence for the next season, as he saw off an inspired charge in Shanghai from defending champion Xander Schauffele. Despite recording a bogeyless 68, McIlroy, the overnight leader, was pushed into a play-off by the tenacious American’s 66 to tie on 19-under.

However, when the pair returned to the 18th tee, Schauffele pushed his drive and was forced to lay-up on the par five. McIlroy saw his opportunity and, from the centre of the fairway, hit a towering 235-yard four-iron to inside 25-feet. The resulting two-putt birdie proved enough to add yet more prestigious silverware to that of The Players, Tour Championship and Canadian Open.

McIlroy also moved to within almost a point of Koepka at the head of the rankings and with the world No 1 sidelined with an injury, he can make further in-roads at his final event of 2019 – the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in three weeks’ time.

“I’m excited for next year,” McIlroy said. “I feel like this year compares to 2014 but I don’t see any reason why I can’t go ahead and have an even better year. Look, the four wins have obviously been wonderful, but more than that, I think it is the consistency that I’m bringing week in, week out.

<span>McIlroy and Brooks Koepka pictured together at the World Golf Championships in July</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
McIlroy and Brooks Koepka pictured together at the World Golf Championships in July Credit: AP

“Even if I don’t have my best stuff, at least I give myself a chance. Even last week in Japan [at the Zozo Championship], finding something after a couple of days and going on to produce a high finish [third after an opening-round 72].”

His results sheet emphatically backs him up. In 23 tournaments, McIlroy has recorded 18 top-10s; a personal record. Granted, the majors were a big disappointment, particularly the missed cut at Royal Portrush in the Open, but elsewhere we have witnessed a new, more consistent performer.

“I think maybe more so than, say, when I first came out on tour, I try 100 per cent over every shot, because I realise I don’t have as much time left as I used to when I was 20,” McIlroy said. “My concentration is better, and my mental capacity on the course is much better than it ever has been, and I think that’s a big key.”

McIlroy’s bank manager would doubtless also nod to the regularity of the almost obscene deposits. This cheque for £1.35 million took his yearly on-course earnings for 2019 soaring north of the £20 million mark. And he might not be finished yet.

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