DUBAI, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy is now so good he should be aiming to win at least one major championship every year, according to Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter.
The Northern Irishman, 23, already has two majors to his name and cemented his status as world number one this season by becoming the second player to win the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic, after Luke Donald achieved the feat in 2011.
“I certainly think Rory would expect to win at least one major a year the way he has been playing,” Poulter told a news conference on the eve of the DP World Tour Championship, the final event on this season’s European circuit.
“The guy is seriously good. You would expect him to be on the leaderboard come Sunday at most of the majors next year - I think everybody’s impressed by him.”
Poulter, who led Europe to a remarkable Ryder Cup comeback win in Illinois in September with a spectacular exhibition of putting, said the emergence of McIlroy and players like American Keegan Bradley would make it hard for the rest to win majors in the next few years.
“There are so many good players in the world right now, it’s very difficult to win a major,” said the opinionated Englishman.
“When you’ve got players like Rory and Keegan and (Australian) Adam Scott that you would expect to be there or thereabouts, the majors are going to be hard to win.”
Poulter has yet to land his first major but is hopeful he has finally flicked a switch in his game that will allow him to reproduce the scintillating form he regularly shows in the Ryder Cup in the big individual strokeplay tournaments.
“It comes out at the Ryder Cup so why shouldn’t I be able to produce that week-in, week-out,” he said. “I guess I have done it the last three weeks so we will just have to see how long we can keep doing that for.”
World number 13 Poulter followed up a fourth-place finish at the BMW Masters in China in October by winning the WGC-Champions Tournament in the same country and ending up second to Scott at the Australian Masters in Melbourne last week.
“My golf’s been great since September, an extension of the Ryder Cup really,” said the 36-year-old.
”The Ryder Cup was an amazing week, one I‘m going to keep with me for a long time - it just goes to show what kind of golf can be played when I focus my mind.
“I‘m now going to work hard inside my little head to focus as well as I do when I play in the Ryder Cup.”
Poulter said he showed in Illinois how he can stand up to high-pressure moments in big events.
”I was a marked man at the Ryder Cup,“ he added. ”They wanted to shut me up, that was plain and simple, and they couldn’t do it.
”I guess I frustrate certain people in that format and hopefully I‘m going to be in the same situation if I‘m coming down the stretch in a major.
“I’d like to think I’ve got the game and the mindset, if I‘m in the right position, to try and finish one off.”
Poulter was once the subject of ridicule after suggesting he was as good as any player apart from Tiger Woods when the American was in his pomp as world number one.
The Englishman is understandably less inclined to go out on a limb these days about his golfing targets.
“Been there, done that one before, we’re not going down there again,” he joked before his conversation took on a more serious tone.
“You all know I expect myself to do really well and I have some big ambitions. I‘m not going to tell you how big they are for next year but yes they are going to be pretty big.” (Editing by Ken Ferris)