Rory McIlroy on Tuesday said that he was unfazed by his position as World No. 1 and the weight of expectations, as the game’s top stars gathered in the Gulf for the season opener.
The Northern Irishman, who on Monday signed a 10-year deal with sportswear giant Nike believed to be in the region of $250 million (Rs. 1366cr), making him one of the highest earners in all sports, said his rise over the last 12 months had changed nothing.
“It doesn't really make a difference to me,” the 23-year-old told a news conference in the United Arab Emirates, where the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Golf Championship gets under way on Thursday.
“I've always had high expectations of myself and every time I come into a tournament I want to feel like I have a chance to win. And if people think I have more of a chance to win than anyone else, that's fine.
“But I know that I’m going to have to play good golf this week to have a chance and that’s what I want to try and do. It's no different. I’ll try and approach every week the same way.”
McIlroy and former world number one Tiger Woods have been paired together for the first two rounds with three-time Abu Dhabi champion Martin Kaymer. Woods, the 14-time Major champion and former world number one, goes into the tournament as a relative underdog.