sport

Mickelson tips Rory for big year

Phil Mickelson believes Rory McIlroy will have a great 2014 season, but might have something to say about the Northern Irishman's lofty goals.

McIlroy said recently he wanted to win two majors this year to make up for the disappointment of 2013, when he failed to add to his US Open victory in 2011 and US PGA triumph in 2012.

The 24-year-old also fell from world number one to sixth in the rankings - he is currently seventh after being overtaken by Zach Johnson - and took until December to register his first victory, edging out Masters champion Adam Scott in a thrilling finish to the Australian Open.

With Mickelson targeting the US Open to complete a career grand slam and McIlroy wanting two major titles, that may not leave much to play for, but Mickelson joked: "Well, want and get are two different things."

The Open champion added: "I think he's going to have a great year, I really do. I think that he's too talented to have another year like last year. You saw glimpses of his game being sharp with his win in Australia in December and I think he's going to have a great year.

"We all have highs and lows. We all have good years and years that are not up to our expectations and usually that makes us more determined, which is what I see out of him."

McIlroy was certainly in a buoyant mood as he followed Mickelson into the media centre ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, something he admitted was "a polar opposite" to this time last year.

The 24-year-old's controversial multi-million pound switch to Nike was greeted with much pomp and circumstance, only for the season to fall flat with poor performances and two legal disputes.

One of those has been settled and McIlroy's recent engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, after persistent rumours in 2013 that they had split, meant the two-time major winner was in high spirits.

"It was a distraction," McIlroy said of his off-course issues.

"You're thinking of other things when you really shouldn't have to. But it's the last year I'm ever going to have to go through something like that.

"I've learned from it and I'm smarter because of it. It's great that I've gone through it at this stage in my career and not 15 years down the line.

"There was loads of stuff going on around me and that didn't let me focus 100 per cent on what I needed to do. This year is the polar opposite. Everything just seems to have fallen into place nicely and I can just go out there and focus on my golf."