McIlroy gunning for Tiger's throne

Holywood idol Rory McIlroy reckons he can take over from world No1 Tiger Woods before the end of next year.

The Ulster starlet, 20, wants to take advantage Woods’ indefinite leave of absence from the game by catching fire in 2010

Toppling World No 2 Phil Mickelson is the first item on McIlroy’s hit list as he plays both sides of the Atlantic targeting multiple wins and possible major glory.

As he jetted off to Dubai for 10 days practice, McIlroy said: “I’d like to try and get into the top five in the world this year because Mickelson and Woods are probably a little further ahead than the rest of the guys.

“But if I can at least challenge Mickelson for that No 2 spot, once I am there, if not this year then maybe next year, I will really think about taking on Tiger. 

“He’s out of the game at the minute but I have to try and seize my opportunity and hopefully get a few wins while he’s away.

“Last year was a fantastic season. I got myself into the top 10 in the world, finished second in the Race to Dubai and gave myself lots of chances to win.” 

McIlroy rocketed from 39th to ninth in the rankings and pocketed nearly €5m euro but believes he should have won more titles.

He said: “The only disappointing thing about last year is not winning more than once. I put myself in position to win three or four times and was only able to take the one opportunity 

“One of my goals this year is to try and go out and win more. If I can turn some of these top fives into wins, then it will make a huge difference.”

With Woods out of the spotlight indefinitely, America fans are hoping McIlroy will provide some star quality.

Unfazed by the pressure McIlroy said: “I have to go over there and play good golf if I want to compete and do well on both tours. 

“I think to win in America this year would be huge. And then obviously I came close in a couple of majors last year. 

“If I can get myself into position to win in a couple of majors, if a few bounces go my way and things go right at the right time, hopefully a major shouldn’t be that far away for me.”

Having opted to join the PGA Tour full time this year, he will follow the Desert Swing with eight US events on the trot  including the Masters from April 8-11.

That means he doesn’t get back to Europe until May’s BMW Championship at Wentworth before heading back Stateside for the build up to the US Open at Pebble Beach.

After 11 top-fives but just one victory in 2009, he know must start converting his chances soon and has set his heart on a US win.

McIlroy said: “I think the win in America is quite big. I’d just like to win more - three or four times this season. 

“A major would be a massive thing for me to achieve at such an early age. But I felt I got a lot of really good experience in the majors last year and I feel ready to compete in them now.

“I have already had a third place so hopefully I can go a little bit better than that.”

McIlroy played all four majors last term, finishing 20th on his Masters debut, 10th in the US Open, 47th in the Open and a brilliant third in the US PGA.

But he badly needs to knock the rust off his game after his winter break over-rant to eight weeks because of the snow in Ireland.

All set for a massive practice “boot camp” in Dubai, McIlroy is also looking forward to attacking in the desert and clinching his place in Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup side well before October’s clash with the US.

He said: “I don’t think I’ve hit a ball in five weeks so I’m itching to get back out there again and I am really looking forward to the season.

“I only wanted to take a rest for maybe two or three weeks but because the weather has been so bad I haven’t been able to get out and hit any balls. 

“I have probably gone a week or two longer than I’d like but I am going out to Dubai shortly to try and hit a few balls and try to get my game in shape for the  new season. 

“You just can’t do anything here. The pitches are frozen for football and all the golf courses are shut. 

“The best thing for me to do is just to get out of here and try and get some practice in Dubai. 

“It is always a great way to kick off the year, going to the Middle East for a couple of weeks, get some nice sunshine on your back and get the season going.”

Ulster could have three man in the Ryder Cup team with Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell also targeting the matches.

Lying second in both qualifying tables, McIlroy said: “I can’t wait. Basically I have nearly secured my place on the team and I just need a couple more world ranking points or a few more euro.

“It will be fantastic and I think Europe’s team this year will probably be one of the strongest teams we have ever had with some of the new guys coming on like Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer. 

“Then you have Padraig, Sergio, Westwood. The strength in depth is there and I think Monty is very confident. I think he will be a good captain so fingers crossed, if everything goes right in Wales European should bring the Ryder Cup home as well.  

“Darren certainly isn’t finished and I think Graeme has a great chance to make it. We played great in the World Cup together and the Seve Trophy together.”

Rory McIlroy’s 2010 schedule

Jan 21-24 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

Feb 4-7 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, UAE

Feb 18-21 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Arizona

March 4-7 Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

March 11-14 WGC-CA Championship, Doral, Florida

March 25-28 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill, Orlando, Florida

April 1-4 Shell Houston Open, Redstone GC, Texas

April 8-11 MASTERS TOURNAMENT, Augusta National, Georgia

April 29-May 2 Quail Hollow Championship, Charlotte, North Carolina

May 6-9 The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass

May 20-23 BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth, England

June 3-6 Memorial Tournament, Dublin, Ohio, USA

June 17-20 US OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Pebble Beach, California

July 8-11 The Barclays Scottish Open, Loch Lomond

July 15-18 THE 139TH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: Old Course, St Andrews

July 29-Aug 1  The 3 Irish Open,  Killarney

Aug  5-8 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Firestone

Aug 12-15 US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Kohler, Wisconsin

*Sept-Fed Ex Cup Play-offs x 4 TBC

Oct 1-3 The Ryder Cup, Celtic Manor Resort

Oct 7-10 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Nov 11-14 Barclays Singapore Open.