New world No 1 Rory McIlroy is relishing the bullseye on his back.
Getting to the top of the rankings as been a burden for players in the past but McIlroy is happy in the spotlight and insists he has no intention of giving up top spot any time soon.
Still on a high following his Honda Classic win, the 22-year old dismissed fears that the world No 1 ranking could become a burden.
He said: “Depends what type of mind you have and if you thrive in the spotlight or if you welcome it. I feel like I do thrive in the spotlight, and I like the attention.
“Not saying that I’m an attention seeker, but you know you’re doing something right when you’re in the spotlight. I’d love to keep myself here for a while. Yeah, I know that it’s inevitable that I’ll lose it at some point. That’s for sure. I just hope that it’s a little further away.
“I don’t feel like I’m under any pressure to keep the No. 1 ranking because that’s not what I play golf for. It’s not to keep the No. 1 ranking. It’s about winning tournaments, and if I win tournaments, the ranking will take care of itself.”
Former No 1 Westwood believes there’s nothing better than being world No 1 though he did add that there’s only one way to go once you reach the summit.
Westwood said: “There’s nothing hard about being No. 1 in the world, no. If you don’t enjoy that, then you need to take up another sport.
“Me and Luke were talking about it on the putting green today. I said, ‘Oh, morning, No. 2.
“And he looked at me and nodded. And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s sort of a bit of a relief.’ He said, ‘There’s only one way to go when you’re No. 1. At least there’s more than one way to go at No. 2.’
“And Billy Foster, my caddie said, ‘Yeah, No. 5.’
“So, you know, you’re at the top there and everybody shoots at you but I think that’s the position you want to be in. You want the position that everybody is envious of.”
McIlroy revealed that he has had hundreds of messages of support - including texts from Manchester United idols Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand.
He said: “I got one from Fergie. Got one from Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, a few of the United boys. I got a lot. Greg Norman sent one to me. He left me a voicemail and a message. He said some very complimentary things.
“He left me a voicemail after the Match Play, as well, last week, didn’t get a chance to catch up with him, but that was very nice of him to reach out. There was a lot. Again, just nice people just to congratulate you and give their words of support and encouragement.
“It was great to get the messages from the guys at Man United. I’ve been to Old Trafford so many times and I’ve met them briefly. It is great to have their support and get their congratulations. It’s pretty surreal.
“I’ve been a huge Man Utd fan for so many years and to have a text message from Alex Ferguson is pretty nice.”
Many are keen to compare McIlroy with Tiger Woods and set him up as the biggest rival to the former world No 1.
But McIlroy believes his biggest rival is not Woods or Westwood but Doral’s Blue Monster.
The world No 1 will get his first chance to defend his ranking when he tees it up with Westwood and former No 1 Luke Donald in the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
But when asked if he felt he was now Tiger’s biggest rival, he said: ” I think it’s more the media that build up the rivalries more than anyone else. To be honest in golf, you can have a rival if you want, but at the end the day, your biggest rival is a golf course. You have to beat that. You have to be able to beat the golf course more often than not, and that’s all you’re trying to do.
“Ultimately you’re going to have to beat people coming down the stretch on Sundays, and whether it’s Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or Lee Westwood or Luke Donald or Martin Kaymer or whoever; you know, I would never really want to say that I’m in a rivalry with someone.
“I just want to go out there and play good golf and solid golf. And if I can do that, then people can make the rivalries up themselves. If people want to say there’s a rivalry, so be it, but I don’t see myself as anyone’s rival out here. I just see myself as Rory McIlroy and going out there and trying to play good golf and winning tournaments at the end of the day.”
Fans worldwide are keen to annoint McIlroy as the new Tiger Woods, but McIlroy said: “I’m going to let other people make the comparisons. I’m not going to try and compare myself to anyone else. I’ve never said that I want to be the next anyone. I just want to be the first Rory McIlroy.
“However good that turns out to be, then I’ll try my best to win tournaments and to win majors and to be best player in the world.
“But it’s never like I set out to win 18 majors like Tiger has. I’ve always just wanted to win golf tournaments, ultimately to win majors, and to be No. 1 in the world. And I’ve been lucky enough to win a major and get to the No. 1 position, but there’s still a long road ahead and I feel like I can accomplish a lot more.”