Rory McIlory - I must focus on myself


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The Independent Online

Rory McIlroy will aim to show he has learnt the lesson of two years ago when he goes head-to-head with Luke Donald in Dubai on Thursday.

The European Tour money list title is on the line, just as it was when McIlroy faced Lee Westwood on the same Earth course at the inaugural Dubai World Championship.

Westwood won their duel by two shots and went on to a six-stroke victory, while the young Northern Irishman ended up third after admitting that he lost the psychological battle in that opening round.

"It was tough to fully concentrate on my own game when you're looking at the player beside you," McIlroy said today.

"I feel like it's something I've learnt because when I go out with Luke in the last game I'll only be trying to concentrate on myself and making sure that I can play the best I can."

The situation this time is that McIlroy will become the circuit's number one only if he wins and Donald, leading by more than £680,000, finishes outside the top nine.

It is a battle between the world's top two players, with the added incentive for Donald being that nobody has ever topped the money lists in both America and Europe in the same season, and one is in the bag already.

He was well over £1million clear just over a month ago, but McIlroy kept the issue alive by taking the Hong Kong Open on Sunday - a win he clinched by holing a bunker shot on the final hole.

Even with that, though, the most exciting young talent in golf has no doubt who is in the driving seat.

"I've still got a slim chance," US Open champion McIlroy said. "I've got to win and Luke has to finish outside the top nine or 10, whatever it is.

"I'm really not counting on him to do that because he's only finished outside the top 10 about twice this year.

"Over the last 18 months he's just been so consistent. He's deservedly the number one ranked player in the world.

"He's always had a great short game and always holes the putts that he should."

In just 12 counting events - six fewer than McIlroy - the Englishman has had three wins, two seconds, a fourth, a sixth, an eighth, a ninth, an 11th, a 45th at the US Open and a missed cut in The Open.

McIlroy also admits he is drained from a long run of tournaments and a virus that sent his white blood cell count "very low". He is currently awaiting the results of tests after visiting a doctor on arrival from the Far East.

"My energy levels are not exactly where I would want them to be, but I took a day off yesterday and took it easy," he said.

He was back in action for this afternoon's pro-am, but added: "I'll probably take another day off tomorrow, maybe hit a few balls.

"I'll really try to conserve my energy and focus it all into the four tournament days. I'm not 100%, but I'm still able to go out and play 18 holes and try and give it my all.

"It's definitely the longest stretch I've played (it began with the Dunhill Links in Scotland at the end of September and has involved three trips to Asia and one to Bermuda, plus stops in Istanbul and the Maldives with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) and it's something I probably won't do again.

"I'll think about it a bit more, but it's something I wanted to do. I have no-one to blame but myself for wanting to play and sort of go week after week."

He is due to play in Thailand next week as well, but that depends on his health.

Then it is back home in time for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year night, where he, Donald and Open champion Darren Clarke have made the all-male short list of 10.

Not that any of them is expected to win. Favourite is cyclist Mark Cavendish.