Golf

McIlroy aims to be world No. 1 with Wozniacki

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CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP)

U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy says his relationship with top-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki can help him become golf's world number one.

After spending two ''great'' weeks together in the United States, McIlroy believes he and the 21-year-old from Denmark can be good for each other's careers.

''I think we definitely spur each other on. She's number one in the world and I've got a major and we sort of both want what each other have,'' the sixth-ranked McIlroy said on Wednesday.

''It's a big goal of mine. I want to become the best player in the world,'' McIlroy said ahead of the European Masters, his first tournament since injuring his right arm at the U.S. PGA Championship three weeks ago.

While recuperating, the 22-year Northern Irishman was by Wozniacki's side at tournaments in Cincinnati and New Haven ahead of bidding for a first Grand Slam title at her U.S. Open.

McIlroy said he was impressed with Wozniacki's dedication, and picked up pointers to improving his own game.

''She's got a great work ethic and it's something I can probably learn a lot from,'' he said admiringly.

''It's a lot more physically demanding than golf,'' McIlroy said, adding he has long been a tennis fan. ''They do put the work in, they really do. It's just amazing how they can get up each morning and keep doing the same thing, putting their bodies through that.

''It's pretty impressive.''

McIlroy said the couple were ''taking a day at a time,'' knowing tournament schedules leave few chances to meet much more this year.

He watched on television late Tuesday when his top-seeded girlfriend opened at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Spain's Nuria Llagostera-Vives.

Wozniacki is next scheduled to play on Thursday, after he completes his first round at the European Masters, which counts as the first points-scoring event toward representing Europe in the 2012 Ryder Cup.

McIlroy's more immediate goal is chasing world No. 1 Luke Donald of England, who plays in the U.S. this weekend.

''I don't think it's achievable in the short term, Luke is quite a long way ahead,'' McIlroy said.

He calculates he can rise to a career-high No. 3 with victory at the Crans-sur-Sierre club, and other results fall his way. Fifth-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany is in the European field while the Americans occupying third and fourth spots, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson, play at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.

McIlroy returns to a course where he almost got his first professional win as a 19-year-old. He took a four-stroke lead into the final round in the Swiss Alps but lost in extra holes to Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin.

''I still think about that playoff in 2008,'' said McIlroy, who has yet to win in Europe as a pro. His sole European Tour victory was at Dubai in February 2009.

McIlroy's injury began as damage to his right wrist three holes into his U.S. PGA challenge, and spread up to his shoulder as he compensated for the pain.

''Now it's not painful. It's more like a numb sensation, like if someone gives you a dead arm,'' he said, after practice on Wednesday, following nine holes the previous afternoon.

''It's nearly 100 percent and I'm happy with it,'' McIlroy said.

He is also happy playing at ''one of the most beautiful places in the world'' - a ski resort that also hosts Alpine World Cup races.

Lee Westwood, the world No. 2 from England, described the setting as ''spectacular, wherever you look.''

''Everyone wants to be the king of the mountain at some point in his career,'' said Westwood, the 1999 winner here.

''The golf course is under snow for a lot of the year, six or seven months, so to do the job they have done is impressive. I looked out of my window this morning and I thought, 'I'm in the right place.'''

A deep field includes British Open winner Darren Clarke, defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was a first-time European Masters winner at the 22nd attempt, and Jose-Maria Olazabal, the 1986 champion and captain of the European Ryder Cup team next year in Medinah, Illinois.

As the only tournament in Europe sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours, 30 players will participate from the sister circuit including money leader Noh Seung-yul of South Korea.

Tagged: Rory McIlroy

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