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Pressure on teenage star Rory to spank the Yanks

By Peter Hutcheon

Published 04/09/2007

Rory McIlroy admits he will come under more pressure than he's ever experienced when he tees off in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down on Saturday.

But there's probably no-one better equipped to handle it than the Holywood teenager who stunned the golfing world with his mature approach at the Open at Carnoustie in July.

There will be 10,000 people crammed into the Co Down links for the two-day competition against the Americans and the vast majority of them will be trying to catch a glimpse of the Ulster wonderkid.

"Probably the closest thing I've had to it apart from the Open would have been at Rosses Point for the West of Ireland in Sligo which has always been a big event for me," said Rory.

" But you can multiply that by ten in terms of the number of people who will be at this.

"The last big event I played in Northern Ireland would have been the North of Ireland when I shot 61 at Royal Portrush, but there wasn't the same level of interest as there is now.

" There will be more pressure on me and Jonny Caldwell because it's a home match for us more so than the rest of the team.

"But it's great for Northern Ireland golf to have an event like this held here. It's great for Ulster."

McIlroy and Caldwell met up with the other eight members of the Great Britain and Ireland team at St Andrew's over the weekend and then flew into George Best Belfast City Airport last night.

A relaxed dinner at the Royal and Ancient headquarters at St Andrews on Sunday evening was followed by a leisurely round at the nearby Kingsbarns course yesterday.

"It was good to get out and play there," said McIlroy, "and I'm looking forward to getting down to Royal County Down to get in some practise there.

"In some ways you want the competition to start but the whole thing, the build-up, all of this, is something to savour as well.

"Hopefully I was always in with a good chance of making the team, but it was a relief when I finally got the phone call that confirmed it.

"I was in Dubai at the time and I think other people on the team knew before they managed to track me down.

"Playing on the Walker Cup was something I desperately wanted to do and I geared pretty much everything towards it this year and it's great to have made it now."

The team met at Newcastle for a practise round after the team was made public last month, although McIlroy took no part because of a shoulder injury.

"There is no injury now, everything's fine," he said, much to the relief of the team not to mention the Ulster sporting public.

The pairings for the Saturday morning matches will not be known until the night before as non-playing captain Colin Dalgleish considers all his options during practise.

The players will play Royal County Down today then head across the border for a change of scenery at Baltray tomorrow. Practise will be back at the competition venue for both Thursday and Friday.

McIlroy is looking forward to the prospect of playing with Clandeboye's Caldwell.

" We've made a pretty good team in the past," he said.

" We've only ever been beaten once playing for Ireland or Ulster and I think we'd make a strong partnership.

"It's great for Jonny to make the team as well and he'd played very well all summer and deserved it."

Belfast Telegraph

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