World No. 1 Dustin Johnson expects Rory McIlroy to return to his best after struggling throughout an injury-interrupted 2017 season.
McIlroy was hampered by a rib problem this year and failed to enjoy so much as a single tournament success.
The Northern Irishman, who has slipped to sixth in the rankings, ended his campaign prematurely after the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship earlier this month to aid his recovery and ensure he is in peak condition to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
Johnson, speaking at the launch of the new Hublot timepiece in Shanghai, expects the four-time major winner to pose a serious threat.
“I think he will be back to his best this year,” the American told Omnisport, referring to the 2017-18 season. “He struggled with injuries, which is tough, so I know what he is going through.
“I got injured at the Masters this year and it lingered for a long time. So I think Rory is just fine and he’ll be back playing well this year.”
Reigning Open champion Jordan Spieth and PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas are second and third respectively in the standings and have designs on dislodging Johnson from top spot, but the big-hitter from South Carolina knows his young countrymen are not the only threats to his reign.
“There is a lot of really good players on tour,” Johnson said. “Right now, Justin and Jordan are my two biggest competitors… But there are a lot of guys that are my competitors every single week.
“I’m going to have to keep playing very hard and keep playing very well.”