RORY McIlroy is hoping to convert his impressive recent form into a second successive World Golf Championships victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship – and to keep his coveted World No. 1 spot.
Spaniard Jon Rahm is aiming to depose the Northern Irishman at the top of Official World Golf Ranking in the first WGC event of 2020 at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Golf Club.
McIlroy claimed his third World Golf Championships title at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November – and is eyeing victory in the of the four to have so far eluded him in his stellar career.
The Northern Ireland ace has picked up three consecutive top five finishes since – a purple patch which helped him overtake Brooks Koepka to return to the World No. 1 spot for the first time since 2015.
McIlroy, who is still without a Major win since 2014, and has spent the last two seasons trying to improve his early season preparation before The Masters, said: “It’s good to be back in Mexico.
“I’ve played well here the last couple of times I’ve played. DJ (Dustin Johnson) was just sort of too good for all of us last year – I played in the final group with him – but it’s good to be back.
“I’ve always felt like I played well at altitude. I’ve played well here. I’ve played well over in Europe and Switzerland a couple of times.
“I feel like I adjust pretty well to it, and that’s really what it’s all about.
“That’s what it’s all about this week, just trying to adjust and trust your numbers and make sure you know how far the ball is going. That’s really it.
“I feel like this tournament has gone from strength to strength the last few years, and I obviously would love to add it to the list of winners here.
“That would be pretty cool, to have won all of the World Golf Championships.
“WGCs are big events, with the top players in the world, and I’ve always played pretty well in them.
“I had a chance when this was played in Doral a few years ago, or a couple of chances, and obviously I’ve played okay here.
“To complete the set would be nice. Those wedge wood trophies look pretty good in the trophy case, so I’d like to add one more there.”
This week, he tied Nick Faldo in third place on the list of players with most cumulative weeks at the top of the World Rankings on 97.
And another week would move him to outright third position, behind only Tiger Woods (683) and Greg Norman (331).
Rahm, however, could move to the top spot for the first time in his career.
The Spaniard – who received the Seve Ballesteros Award as the 2019 European Tour Players’ Player of the Year ahead of the opening day of the WGC-Mexico Championship – would need a win if he is to have any chance of doing so this week.
Rahm said: “It’s always nice to come to a country where they speak Spanish.
“The culture is a lot more similar to what it is in Spain. There’s good food, good hospitality and a good golf course. It doesn’t really get much better than this.
“My perspective hasn’t changed at all this week, honestly. I’m here to win a tournament. That’s what I’m here to do.
“I’m hoping for the rest of the year, it’s going to be like that where at some point I’m going to win or have a good performance and get to No. 1 in the world, but the main goal is to win championships, win tournaments, and play my best every week I can.
“Those rankings are basically a consequence of what I do on the golf course, so I’ve got to take care of business first.”
Johnson aims for hat-trick in Mexico
Dustin Johnson has won two of the three WGC-Mexico Championships – sandwiching’s Phil Mickelson win over Justin Thomas in a play-off in 2017.
Johnson said: “I feel like the game is in good form, but obviously you’ve got to do a lot of things well around here if you want to win.
“But I like the golf course. I’ve felt comfortable on it, and I’m comfortable up here playing at the altitude.
“But you’ve got to do everything. It’s really narrow, so first and foremost, you’ve got to drive it well, and then obviously these greens are really small and undulated.
“So if I can control the distance of my golf ball, then it’ll be a pretty good week.”
•To follow lives scoring in the WGC-Mexico Championship click here.