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Showdown: Rory McIlroy (right) and Justin Rose before game of badminton in Shanghai ahead of WGC-HSBC Champions

Showdown: Rory McIlroy (right) and Justin Rose before game of badminton in Shanghai ahead of WGC-HSBC Champions

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Showdown: Rory McIlroy (right) and Justin Rose before game of badminton in Shanghai ahead of WGC-HSBC Champions

Rory McIlroy might need to win two of his next three starts to have even a remote chance of winning the Race to Dubai for the fourth time.

But whatever about his slim hopes of closing the massive 1.88 million point gap that separates him from Open champion Francesco Molinari, he knows from Tiger Woods' old commercials that winning will take care of everything if he's to get back to world number one next year.

Set to partner Molinari and Dustin Johnson in the $10million, 78-man, WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International in Shanghai, the Co Down man has watched the No 1 spot change 10 times and seen it pass through six different pairs of hands since he last dominated the rankings three years ago.

The problem for fifth-ranked McIlroy is that he's so far behind new No 1 Brooks Koepka and his immediate pursuers Johnson, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas, that the world No 1 spot is not even a realistic goal.

With just one win over the past two seasons, his aim is to win the tournaments and majors that will get him there again.

"It's not a goal, because there's other goals that you want to attain and achieve," McIlroy said yesterday.

"I obviously want to get back to No. 1, but it's about winning golf tournaments and playing well and playing consistent golf."

With next month's Nedbank Golf Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship remaining for him, McIlroy may have to win at least twice to trouble Ryder Cup team-mates Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in the Race to Dubai.

Rose won in Shanghai last year and used that victory as a springboard to becoming world No 1 and FedEx Cup champion, telling his manager during last year's Pro-Am that it was "time to go on a bit of a run here".

True to his word, he won the title, added two more before Christmas and was so consistent this season that he won the FedEx Cup and became the 22nd man to top the world rankings.

McIlroy has failed to turn good play into wins since he ended his near 18 month drought at Bay Hill in March.

"I'm in a much better place this year than I was this time last year," said McIlroy, who missed last year's event through injury but has five top 10s in six starts in Shanghai.

"I've played very consistent golf. Maybe haven't quite had the wins I've wanted but I have three tournaments this year to try to add to that, so I'm excited for this week and the next few weeks, as well."

Defending champion Rose will look to achieve something only Woods has managed before in the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Woods is the only player to retain a World Golf Championship title but Rose can match that feat at Sheshan International, where he amazingly overturned an eight-shot deficit in the final round 12 months ago.

That victory sparked a remarkable run of form by the Olympic champion which yielded a total of four wins, 14 top-10 finishes and a solitary missed cut in 25 events, not to mention the FedEx Cup title and a two-week spell as world number one.

"It's been a special year and a special month," said Rose, who also helped Europe regain the Ryder Cup before hosting the British Masters at Walton Heath and he could regain top spot in the rankings on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph