Rory McIlroy’s quietly-spoken coach has boldly set the goal of the tearaway World No. 1 doubling his number of career victories next season.
McIlroy captured a 10th pro win last Sunday in stunning style, snatching five one-putt birdies to seal success in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Near on four years ago, McIlroy left his mother, Rosie breathless in capturing his first pro career title, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Last Sunday and less than 10 miles from the Emirates Course, the current World No. 1 added the word ‘Roryisque’ to the golfing dictionary in the manner he triumphed on the Earth Course.
He again stunned his mother but also left a huge crowd aghast and others close to him grasping for superlatives, including long-time coach, Michael Bannon and his Horizon Sports management team headed by Conor Ridge.
Earlier this year, Bannon sat McIlroy down to set the goal of the 23-year old ending his fifth full season on Tour with a 10 career wins and now after his storming desert conquest Bannon has no hesitation in targeting 10 wins in a season.
“Rory’s done this his whole life since he was three, four, five, six and seven years of age, and he’s always been like 10 years ahead of his time and that’s the case now at this level,” said Bannon.
“He’s had five wins this year and this is his 10th pro career win. I said to him at the start of the year let’s make it 10 wins and he said to me I’ve only got four even though he wasn’t including winning Lake Malaren last year.
“But I said ‘no’ 10 wins, and if you win 10 we can move on towards winning 20. That’s one our goals.”
Remarkably it was only the second time since McIlroy turned pro in September 2007 that Bannon, and his coach since McIlroy was aged six, that Bannon has witnessed his World No. 1 ranked star win a tournament.
Bannon had been at Kiawah Island in August but headed home early and didn’t get to witness first hand McIlroy capturing a second Major by a similar eight-shot margin as his first.
“Actually, the first time I saw him win was the Deutsche Bank title in Boston and that was brilliant,” said Bannon.
“So I wasn’t at Kiawah as I had left to go home but to be in Dubai to see him win again was just fantastic.
“He seems to grow every year in incredible leaps and bounds, and in a way he continues to surprise me but then he has this ability in him to draw upon it whenever it’s needed.
“It was a great way to end his season with five single putt birdies. Rory just has the heart of a lion.”
Bannon will team-up again with McIlroy in coming weeks at the Bear’s Club in Florida before the first serious steps of McIlroy’s 2013 season starting from January 7th at the Els Club in Dubai.
McIlroy will work out of the Butch Harmon Coaching Academy where fellow Northern Ireland pro, Justin Parsons is based.
It will present McIlroy with 10 days to further break-in his new Nike clubs before his opening event of his sixth professional season, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and a confrontation with new rival, Tiger Woods.
And with Nike to soon herald McIlroy’s signing to a reputed $200m super deal, Bannon joined the chorus of top-line professional colleagues declaring McIlroy will have no trouble whatsoever adapting to Nike equipment.
“Rory will have no trouble switching clubs as he will be going from a bladed club to another bladed club,” said Bannon.
Maybe if he was switching from a cavity-backed club or muscle-backed club to a blade then there might be a little worry.
“But because he will be going from blade to blade he should be fine.
“So I don’t see him having any trouble at all, and he’s also got a good period of testing and practice before he starts next season.”