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'Only a matter of time until I'm world number one': Rory McIlroy targets the top after opening round 67 at the European Masters

Rory McIlroy in action during his opening round at the European Masters.
Rory McIlroy in action during his opening round at the European Masters.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Rory McIlroy has his eyes firmly fixed on Brooks' Koepka's world number one spot after firing in an opening 67 at the European Masters in Switzerland.

The world number two is three under par after his first round at the picturesque Crans-sur-Sierre GC, trailing front-runner Matthias Schwab at seven under.

The PGA Tour Champion will know his overall play deserved more than the six birdies on his card, with some shots left on the course - not least his closing par five as a four foot putt slipped by.

If his promising play continues, a lower round beckons.

And there's a bigger picture to it all. With Brooks Koepka not in action this week, McIlroy knows it's a big chance to close the gap between himself in second and the world number one.

"I feel like when I'm playing my best I'm the best player in the world and I'd like to get back there," he told Sky Sports after finishing his first round. "It's been a goal of mine for a while. I haven't experienced that for four years but I feel like with the work I'm putting in and the consistent golf I'm playing, hopefully it's only a matter of time."

McIlroy still has a few chances for big world ranking points later this year, with the BMW Championship coming up in September and a World Golf Championship event in November.

But just a week after this PGA Tour Championship win at East Lake, his focus is firmly fixed in Switzerland, where he lost in a play-off to Jeff Lucquin in 2008, after bogeying his 72nd hole to let the Frenchman back in.

"If I have to play a tournament this week, I wouldn't want to play anywhere else," he smiled. "It's beautiful. I'm here with my wife and her parents and we're having a great time.

"It's a beautiful place and I'm glad I'm back after all these years. Hopefully I can play some good golf over the next three days and give myself a chance.

"I played well on the back nine, our front nine today. Three under was good (at the turn) and then I took advanateg of a couple of the short par fours but made a couple of bogeys as well.

"Overall it was ok. It's so different to the golf I've been playing (in America). It's getting used to these greens again and how far the ball's going as well."

Favourite at the start of the week, success would be McIlroy's 14th European Tour victory but his first in over three years, since he triumped at the 2016 Irish Open.

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