By Matt Smith
DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy turned his thoughts to April's U.S. Masters and declared that he was back to his ominous best after seven birdies in 11 holes helped him win the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday.
McIlroy’s one-stroke victory over England’s Andy Sullivan capped an impressive recovery by the Northern Irishman after ruptured ankle ligaments denied him the chance to defend his British Open title in July.
"I think I'm right there," McIlroy told reporters when asked how near he was to peak form.
"The only thing that's been holding me back over the past few weeks was my putting. My ball-striking is right where I want it to be.
"All aspects of my game are in good shape now. If my game is in this shape going into next year, I'd be very happy and feel I could do very well."
The four-time major winner’s victory at the European Tour finale provided an upbeat ending to a topsy-turvy season.
In February, McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic to cement his position as the world number one.
Although two further victories followed, Jordan Spieth of the United States, who won this year's Masters and U.S. Open titles, and Australia’s Jason Day, who won the PGA Championship, moved ahead of the 26-year-old in the world rankings.
McIlroy writes his season's goals on the flight over to his pre-season base in Dubai in January.
He revealed he has only chalked off one this year -- winning the 2015 Race to Dubai, given to Europe’s top money earner.
“Obviously I wanted to win majors,” he said. “I wanted to improve certain areas of my game and didn't quite do that. You have to set yourself these lofty goals to try and get better.”
McIlroy will return to Augusta in April to try to win the Masters, the only major to elude him following a fourth-placed finish this year.
“Every time you go to Augusta, there's a lot of hype,” said McIlroy.
“It's always going to be there until I get to put a green jacket on my back. The first real goal of the year is to try and get ready for the Masters and be in as good a shape as possible.”
He will now enjoy eight weeks away from competitive golf, although that does not mean he will be taking it easy.
“I want to try and get healthy and get stronger again, get my body back, because I haven't been able to do as much in the gym as I would have liked over the past few months,” added McIlroy.
(Reporting by Matt Smith; editing by Toby Davis)