'Exciting times' for McIlroy

Rory McIlroy
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Two words said it all as golf's new world number one Rory McIlroy flew from Florida to New York to celebrate with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.

"Exciting times," said the 22-year-old after winning the Honda Classic in thrilling fashion to become the second youngest player to top the rankings since they began in 1986.

Indeed they are. With his return to The Masters, scene of his nightmare final-round 80 last year, only a month away it is not just ending Luke Donald's nine-month reign which has Northern Ireland's US Open champion licking his lips. It is also the fact he won after Tiger Woods applied the pressure with a birdie-eagle finish for 62, the lowest final round of his career.

Not only that, there was also Lee Westwood's closing 63, his lowest-ever round in America, and do not forget that only three weeks ago Phil Mickelson wiped the floor with Woods with a closing 64 at Pebble Beach.

"I think it's fantastic for the game," said McIlroy, who in an incredible run has only once finished outside the top five in 12 tournaments since the USPGA Championship last August. "I think everyone is excited for Augusta to roll around. I definitely know I am. I'm looking forward to getting back there and giving it another shot."

Everybody has known for a long time how well McIlroy can hit the ball, but what his third victory in America proved is how much he has improved his short game and his nerve.

He does not mind admitting he choked at Augusta last April when he went from four ahead after 54 holes to 10 behind with the worst round of anybody that day. But at Palm Beach Gardens he did not miss once from inside 10 feet on the final day, made a brilliant par save from deep rough on the 14th and twice got up and down from bunkers in the last four holes.

"I feel like I've always believed in my ability, it's just doing it at the right times," he said. "I'm getting better at knowing what I need to do when I get into contention. That just comes with experience. I definitely don't doubt myself as much as I used to.

"Obviously you try to forget the bad experiences and remember the good ones. It gives me a little bit of confidence knowing if I get myself in that position again that I'm able to finish the job off.

"It was always a dream of mine to become the world number one, but I didn't know that I would be able to get here this quickly."

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