Rory McIlroy has taken the golfing world by storm since turning professional 18 months ago and will make his eagerly awaited return to the European Tour at The 3 Irish Open at Baltray, County Louth later this month.
McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic in February and since then has made his mark in America at several tournaments including the US Masters.
McIlroy, who turns 20 on Monday, is returning to his first love of links golf at County Louth Golf Club from May 14 to 17.
The Holywood star has made a huge impression on the American golfing public with outstanding performances at the Masters, finishing tied 20th, and the WGC Accenture Match Play, where he reached the quarter-finals before losing to World number four Geoff Ogilvy.
But McIlroy faces tough competition to land his second European Tour title with three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington also in the Irish Open field, further increasing hopes of a home success.
“We don’t play that much links golf on the European Tour so it’s great that the Irish Open is returning to Baltray,” said McIlroy.
“It’s one of the oldest tournaments on the European Tour. Returning to links golf after a couple of months in America where I played courses like Augusta and Doral will be a test but it’s a test I’m relishing.”
McIlroy will compete in the Players Championship — the unofficial ‘fifth Major’ — next week before turning his attention to the €3 million Louth tournament where victory would see him make significant strides in his quest to win the inaugural big money Race to Dubai.
McIlroy said: “There’s no doubt it would be great to get back to Dubai and have a chance of winning the Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship — but first of all I have to concentrate on getting a good result at the Irish Open because that would be a good catalyst for the rest of the year.
“It would be a nice to do a Dubai double, that’s for sure! But it’s a long way off and I’m concentrating on the rest of the season, starting at Baltray.”