RORY McIlroy is targeting a second BMW PGA Championship title as he aims to round off a memorable season by matching his career-best total of five victories in a calendar year.
The World No. 2 sealed his first victory at Wentworth Club in May 2014, kicking off a sequence that saw him capture his third and fourth Major Championship titles as well as a World Golf Championship – and return to the summit of the world golf rankings within three months.
With three victories so far this year on the way to sealing FedEx Cup glory in the United States, the Northern Irishman is eyeing at least two more wins from his remaining four events to equal his 2012 total – starting this week at the fourth Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
McIlroy, who returns to the Burma Road West Course in fine form, said: “The most I’ve ever won in a season is five. I’d love to at least equal that and try to better that. Feel like I’m playing well enough.
“Just keep going, try not to let my foot off the pedal and finish the year the way I started it, on a very positive note.
“I think all the great golf that I’ve played up until this point this year moves me in the right direction – and gives me motivation to try and end this year well, and try to get a couple more wins.
“The win in 2014 was something out of the blue. I went down and rode that wave of momentum all the way through the summer, with Majors and Ryder Cup and all that.
“Sometimes need these little sparks to get you going and that was definitely a spark for me to give me that little push forward and do what I did that year.”
McIlroy, who finished runner-up to Francesco Molinari here last season, is joined in one of the strongest fields in the history of the prestigious event by a trio of debutants in Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm.
American Finau last played in England at The Open at Royal Birkdale, in 2017, but he sees this week’s event as the first of many around the world in the coming years.
Finau, whose rise to fame began as one of the starts of the Golf Channel’s Big Break series in 2009, said: “I’ve heard nothing but great things about this golf tournament, about the event, about the golf course.
“A lot of our guys enjoy coming to this tournament specifically. As I asked around, and as I was planning on adding a couple of European Tour events to my schedule, this was one that I felt like was necessary with all the feedback I got from the American guys.
“If you’re truly a world-class player, I feel like you’ve got to win all around the world on different types of golf courses, and then I get to experience different cultures and travel to different places.
“So a combination of all those things, I feel like are a reason why I wanted to add some European Tour events – and maybe eventually even some other tours to my resumé.”
Hovland, the 22-year-old Norwegian, has his sights firmly set on the 2020 Ryder Cup as he makes his European Tour professional debut in the event that kicks of the points race for the European Ryder Cup team.
Hovland, who turned pro after finishing 12th in the US Open at Pebble Beach in June, playing as the reigning US Amateur Champion.
He won the Havemeyer Trophy at the famous Californian venue in August 2018, and is already thinking about he Ryder Cup having played in the Palmer Cup for Europe and the International team against the top American college golfers in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Hovland said: “That would mean everything to be part of the Ryder Cup team. I love college golf so much, even though professional golf is really cool, I still think about the times that we had in college.
“There’s nothing better than winning a tournament as a team, and hopefully one day I’ll be part of a winning Ryder Cup team.”
“We have a really cool venue this week and hopefully I can continue to play some good golf,” added Hovland, who is already on the verge of breaking into the world top 100 after just eight professional starts in the States.
Meanwhile three-time Rolex Series event winner Rahm is aiming to add his name to the illustrious list of Spanish victors at Wentworth, following his countrymen Seve Ballesteros, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and José Maria Olazábal.
Rahm, who won his third Rolex Series event at the Irish Open, in July, said: “Yesterday was the first time I was ever on the ground here and first time I ever played on the course, and I like it.
“I’ve heard so many things over the years people telling me about the redesigns – people that like it, people didn’t like it.
“I think it’s just been coincidence that three of the four events I’ve won on the European Tour have been Rolex Series Events, luckily for me.
“Any time I can join Spanish golf history, it would be great,” added the Ryder Cup winner, who first played men’s amateur golf in England back in 2010, when he competed in the Brabazon Trophy.
“To do it here, a tournament that a lot of people look forward to, and I’ve looked forward to, it would be nice to be the fourth one to get there and add it for Spanish golf,” said Rahm, whose record of a total of 60 weeks at No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, in 2015 and 2016, is still a record.