By Rory Carroll
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy on Wednesday said he has achieved everything he ever wanted to on the golf course and that success gives him the freedom to play an aggressive style that could see him retake the world number one position this week.
The Northern Irishman, who will make his season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego on Thursday, said he reflected on his approach to the game after narrowly missing the cut at the British Open in Royal Portrush in July.
"I basically said to myself after Portrush, I'm 30-years-old, I have basically achieved everything that I've wanted to achieve in the game, so why would I be careful?" he told reporters.
"Why would I not go out there with the most carefree attitude and think everything beyond this is just gravy.
"That's something that I've learned, that's the mindset that I'm going to try to replicate each and every time that I tee it up."
World number two McIlroy can retake the top position from Brooks Koepka with a win at the tournament this week. McIlroy last held the position in September 2015 but said the field is only getting tougher.
"If you look at when I first came out on tour and started winning majors nearly a decade ago, eight years ago, you could probably count on one hand players who played a similar game to the way I played," he added.
"So where I used to get to the golf course and think, okay, maybe five or 10 people have a chance, nowadays it's 40, 50, 60 guys that play that sort of game.
"I think that's going to be the biggest challenge going forward over the next 10 years. There's always fresh blood coming through and new talent.
"Trying to keep up with them is the big challenge going forward."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Christian Radnedge)