Yes, Rory McIlroy still heads into every new campaign with multiple wins in his sights, but his goals these days are mainly based on statistics.
“I used to sit down on the flight here and write down, like: I want to win five times, I want to win a major; I want to win The Race to Dubai; I want to win the FedExCup; I want to do this or that,” said McIlroy, speaking on the eve of his first appearance in 2022 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links.
“And, of course I want to do all those things. I'd love to win six times in a season. I've never done that before. I've won five. All those things are great goals and they are things to try to work towards.
“But I think the biggest thing for guys that at the level that we're at is I want to hit over 60 per cent of my fairways. I want my proximity inside 150 yards to be a certain number. I want my strokes gained putting to be a certain number.
“I think having goals that are more objective and more that I'm in control of, so I can't control if I win five or six times a year. There's so many other variables in there. But I can certainly control if my stats are better than they were the year before.
“So it's about trying to set yourself goals that you can control, and that are objective and measurable.”
McIlroy, who starts his 15th season as card holder on the renamed DP World Tour sitting eighth in the world rankings, has got a phase where he was intent on trying to add length off the tee out of his system.
“That goal of hitting more fairways, even maybe throttling back and hitting 3-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway,” he said when asked of what would be his main goal for this year.
“Maybe just being a little bit more of a measured and a controlled golfer. I'll certainly pick-and-choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it.
“The best player of the last 30 years, Tiger [Woods], he picked and chose where he hit driver, and he played a very, very controlled game. It didn't work out too badly for him.
“Not saying that my game compares to his in any way, but there are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game.”
McIlroy finished second four times and was third on four other occasions when the HSBC Championship was held at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with Yas Links a new home for the Rolex Series event on this occasion.
“Maybe this is what's needed to end up winning this thing,” he said of the venue change. “But it (Abu Dhabi) has always been a great place to start the year for me. I've always played pretty well and hopefully I can continue that trend this week.”