McIlroy plots ambitious haul after injury-marred 2017

FILE PHOTO: Golf - . Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during the third round of the European Tour, Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Kingsbarns, Britain, October 7, 2017. Reuters/Craig Brough

(Reuters) - Rory McIlroy has set his sights on becoming the best non-American golfer of all time and plans to return stronger than ever after completing an injury-marred season that has seen the Briton drop to sixth in the world rankings.

After winning the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup last year, McIlroy's campaign was stalled by two separate injury layoffs and he signed off for the season in a tie for 63rd at the European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.

The 28-year-old four-time major champion, who will now take a three-month winter break, said his first target would be to complete the career grand slam, which can be achieved next April at the U.S. Masters.

"And then, try and become the best European golfer ever. Try and surpass (Briton) Nick Faldo (who won six majors) in that," he told British media.

"If I had a career goal, it would be to be the best international golfer ever. Gary Player has nine majors. I'd like to think I'm going to give myself a chance to get close to that tally," added the former world number one.

McIlroy will look to use his time off the course to fully recover from rib and back injuries that plagued him all season.

"My last round of 2017 sort of summed up all of 2017. Not much happening, good or bad. Just sort of stuck in neutral," he said after signing for a level-par 72 at St Andrews.

"It hasn't been the year I wanted on the golf course. I started with grand ambitions of trying to add to my major tally and trying to win golf tournaments.

"I haven't won and the results haven't been what I wanted, but I feel like I can still salvage something from the rest of this year, even though I'm not playing. I've given myself an opportunity to put a lot of good foundations in place."

McIlroy last went winless in 2008, a year after he turned professional as an 18-year-old. However, he said he was a better player now than he was in 2011 and 2012, when he won majors.

"I feel like I can do better than that in the next 10 years. That's why I feel like these next three months are very important to put some really good things in place."

American Jack Nicklaus tops the list of major winners in golf with 18 victories, four clear of compatriot Tiger Woods.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)