Rory McIlroy fires 3-under to open European Masters, ready to reclaim World No. 1 ranking

Ryan Young
Yahoo Sports Contributor
McIlroy, who claimed a record $15 million prize at East Lake last week, said he’s ready to push past Brooks Koepka and reclaim the top spot in the World Golf Rankings. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy may have claimed the PGA Tour’s top prize on Sunday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, but he’s not stopping there.

He’s on a quest to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings.

“I feel like when I'm playing my best, I'm the best player in the world. And I'd like to get back there,” McIlroy said Thursday. “It's been a goal of mine for a while. I haven't experienced that summit for the last four years. So I feel like with the work that I'm putting in and the consistent golf that I'm playing, hopefully it's only a matter of time.”

McIlroy fired a 4-under 66 on Sunday to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta and his second career FedExCup — making him now just the second PGA Tour member to do so. The win also earned him a record $15 million prize.

The 30-year-old won three times on the PGA Tour this season, thanks to a win at both The Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open. He also had 14 top-10 finishes, including a T-9 finish at the U.S. Open and a T-8 finish at the PGA Championship.

Still, though, McIlroy is trailing Brooks Koepka for that top spot in the world — something he hasn’t seen since 2015. Koepka — who finished in a tie for third at the Tour Championship — still holds a more than 100-point lead over McIlroy in the standings, and edged him out this week for the PGA of America’s Player of the Year award, too.

While his strong finish certainly helped him climb up in the rankings, McIlroy isn’t taking a break after the PGA Tour season ended. He hopped right back on the course Thursday and recorded an impressive first round at the Omega European Masters.

McIlroy finished with a 3-under 67 at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in Switzerland to kick off the European Tour event, recording three birdies in his final five holes. He now sits just four shots back from leaders Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Matthias Schwab.

Though he still has a ways to go to overtake Koepka, McIlroy is confident he can get there in the next few months — and he knows a strong showing this week in Switzerland will help.

“It's so different to the golf I've played the last few weeks,” McIlroy said, via the Golf Channel. “So just trying to adjust and get used to these sort of greens again, and how far the ball's going, and what the ball's going to do out of the rough. But I feel like I did OK.”

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