Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Rory McIlroy wants to end year on high

Warm-up: Rory McIlroy plays a shot during the Pro-Am at Lake Malaren in Shanghai

Rory McIlroy may have had a torrid year by his own standards but there's no hint of it in the resilient young Ulsterman's demeanour in Shanghai.

The 24-year-old had a familiar bounce in his step and a smile on his face at Lake Malaren as he prepared for today's opening round of the BMW Masters, the first of four events in the European Tour's $30m 'Final Series'.

McIlroy may have been weighed down in 2013 by a game that went walkabout, equipment that for several months didn't work and a legal battle with his former management company but, remarkably, he seems once again has the scent of victory.

Though without a win this year and currently languishing 63rd in the Race to Dubai, McIlroy still didn't look out of place alongside money-leader Henrik Stenson and the Swede's closest challenger in the European Order of Merit, Graeme McDowell, as he went to the tee in the marquee group at Lake Malaren early today.

A share of second place last Sunday among 60 Korea Open finishers that included 12 Kims, eight Lees, eight Parks, three Kangs (one of them the winner), two Songs, a Hwang, a Bang and a Moon, didn't appear like much to write home about.

"I threw away 10 shots at the weekend just with the putts," said McIlroy.

"There were good signs, though. I hit it really well tee to green and hit two flagsticks on Sunday."

The overriding feeling as McIlroy returned to the scene of his $2m victory in the then unsanctioned Lake Malaren Masters in 2011 is that the sky's the limit should he get the putting right.

"It hasn't been my best year but the burning desire to win more is still very much in me," he said.

With 78 in the field this week, no cut, an enormous €5.086m purse and a first prize of €851,346, McIlroy is almost certain to vault back into the Race to Dubai top-60, where he needs to be to make it into next month's European season finale, the DP World Tour Championship.

"This is a hugely important week for me," he readily conceded. "As is next week (at the HSBC Champions tournament, also in Shanghai). I want to give myself a shot at defending my (Race to Dubai) title."

Elsewhere, Tiger Woods has received an apology from the US pundit who accused him of "cheating" on a magazine website.

"Golf is a gentleman's game and I'm not proud of this debate. I want to apologise to Tiger for this incited discourse," Golf Channel TV commentator Brandel Chamblee wrote on Twitter.

"My intention was to note Tiger's rules infractions this year, but comparing that to cheating in grade school went too far."

Meanwhile, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has put back the announcement of his wild cards for next year's Gleneagles clash by 24 hours due to a clash with a FedEx Cup event in the US.

McGinley had originally planned to name his three picks on Monday, September 2, the day after the final qualifying event – the Italian Open – finishes.

However, he will now do so a day later after it was pointed out to the Dubliner last month that the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four FedEx Cup play-off events in which many of his team are likely to be playing, is due to finish on the Monday.

McGinley said: "I have had a rethink and I now want to delay 24 hours as I realise that some potential members of the team might well be playing in Boston that week. Realistically, I think it will have minimal effect, but out of respect for any players involved, I want to allow them to finish that tournament before I call them with news, one way or another."

The decision means both teams will announce their wild cards on the same day, with American captain Tom Watson also revealing his three selections.

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