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Rory McIlroy aiming for a repeat of Australia Open glory

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy will look to successfully defend the title which kick-started his resurgence at this week's Australian Open in Sydney.

Given the world number one's brilliant performances this year, which brought Major victories in the Open and US PGA Championship and two other wins, it is hard to believe just how bad 2013 was in comparison.

McIlroy struggled to adapt to his new equipment, fell out with his management company and walked off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic, not to mention labelling his own play "brain dead" when missing the cut in the Open at Muirfield.

The 25-year-old had to wait until December to win his first tournament of 2013 at Royal Sydney, denying home favourite Adam Scott the triple crown after the Masters champion had won the Australian PGA and Australian Masters.

Twelve months on, McIlroy returns to Sydney - albeit a different golf course - already thinking about completing a career Grand Slam in the Masters next April and brimming with confidence.

"This year has been full of ups and downs, mainly ups, which is a great thing," said McIlroy, who won the BMW PGA Championship in May just days after calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

"I learned a lot from it and I feel like I came through this year stronger and wiser, and I can go into 2015 in a much better place. I'm happy with the success that I've had and I feel like there's been a lot that I've learned this year as well, and that's a great thing going into the future.

"This week's a big week. I want to play well and do a good job with defending my title. I'll have a little bit of downtime over Christmas and New Year, which will be nice."

McIlroy has now spent a total of 56 weeks as world number one during his career and feels he has finally come to grips with the responsibility which accompanies such a lofty position.

"I used to be uncomfortable," added McIlroy, who is in his fifth spell at the top of the rankings. "You get to the point where there's added scrutiny and there's added criticism or whatever it is.

"But I learned to deal with it. It's just part of the title now, world number one. That's what it comes with. I've become comfortable with it.

"I've spent more than a year of my career at number one, so if I'm not used to it by now, then there's something wrong. I enjoy it. It's where I want to be. I want to be the best in the world and I want to keep it for as long as I can."

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