Preview: McIlroy’s European reign has only begun

Rory McIlroy was named the 2012 PGA Tour Player of the Year.

One of the biggest questions on this year’s PGA European Tour is whether anyone can dethrone Rory McIlroy from atop the Official World Golf Ranking and European Tour money list.

At this stage, it seems doubtful.

The Northern Irishman is coming off a season in which he posted a second major title, the PGA Championship, won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and added eight more top-10 finishes among the European, World Golf Championship and major events. He wrapped up the money title with two tournaments to spare. Throw in three other PGA Tour victories besides the PGA and he’s the European to beat.

Though there are many contenders for his crown – Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell foremost among them – McIlroy proved last season that he’s a cut above the chasing pack. McDowell conceded as much when he said of his 23-year-old countryman: “I feel like Rory is in a slightly different stratosphere than myself. He’s a phenomenon.”

Michael Bannon, McIlroy’s coach, thinks his phenomenal player can become Europe’s best ever. “If Rory went on, say, for another 20 years playing top-level golf, there’s nothing to stop him winning at least one major every two years, and that would be the minimum I would see him winning,” Bannon told the Belfast Telegraph.

Bannon’s math would give McIlroy 10 majors, four more than Nick Faldo.

Whether European fans will see as much of McIlroy in 2013 remains to be seen. He played 15 events in 2012, but with talk of dialing back on his schedule, he might play only the minimum of 13 this year.

Even if he does reduce his schedule, it’s hard to see him not winning a second consecutive European money list and staying at the top of the world order.

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