Belfast Telegraph

Rory McIlroy: Who I want to see win the Champions League final as a Manchester United fan

By Gareth Hanna

Manchester United fans are supposed to hate Liverpool - that's the admission of Rory McIlroy as he prepares for a big weekend on and off the golf course.

The world number eight is playing in the PGA Championship at Wentworth, hoping to bounce back from his missed cut at The Players' Championship earlier this month.

And as a self-professed football fan, he's well aware of the significance of the Champions League final on Saturday evening. Liverpool, of course, will take on Real Madrid aiming to win the famous trophy for the sixth time.

But who will McIlroy, a massive Manchester United fan, be rooting for?

"I'll be putting my Real Madrid jersey on," he joked at the pre-tournament press conference before giving his serious answer. "I think it's great that a British team is in the final. If Liverpool can start off the way they did the first leg of the semi-final against Roma then they've got a good chance.

"As much as I'm a United fan and United fans are supposed to hate Liverpool, I think it would be great for a British team to win so hopefully."

Rory, playing alongside former Manchester United stars Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham at the PGA Championship Pro-Am, swapped his golf ball for a football for a quick spot of footgolf but things didn't quite go to plan.

And for that, he's blaming a football sabbatical since he sustained an injury (that would keep him out of that year's Open Championship) in a kick-about with friends back in 2015.

"Mine didn't make it to the green - I think that's the first football I kicked since 2015," he smiled.

On the course, McIlroy could do with a boost. Back in 2014 he won the BMW PGA Championship, paving the way for Open Championship and PGA Championship success later that year. He's hoping a positive performance this week could have a similar impact.

"All you need is that spark or that catalyst," he said. "I felt like my game was going in the right direction in 2014. It did snowball from there and I got onto a hot streak. I'd love to be able to do something like that again. I've got a busy summer coming up - maybe this can be the spark that gets that all going again.

"If I can hit the ball the way that I can and if I can control my shots into these greens, then I'll have a chance.

"It's a course where if you're not quite on it, you can get frustrated easily. If you have the ball under control, it feels quite easy because you can fit fairways and greens. I think it magnifies either side of your game.

"They've taken quite a few of the fairway bunkers out, which is good. It lets guys be more aggressive off the tee if you want to be. It just gives you options. Over the past few years, I felt the bigger hitters were handcuffed. At least guys can think about using their length as an advantage.

"The win at Bay Hill was great. Playing my way into the final group was great as well so those were real steps forward. I just feel like it's been inconsistent. If I can get that , that would be a step in the right direction.

"I did some good work on my swing in Florida last week and hopefully I can see some good signs on that over the next four days."

McIlroy is undoubtedly one of the world's biggest sporting stars. With that sort of recognition comes a lot of baggage - and it's not a side of his life that McIlroy relishes.

"It's probably something I've grown to accept," he said. "I dreamed of being a great golfer, I never dreamed of the other stuff. I feel very privileged that I'm in the position that I'm in and can pursue my dream of being the best golfer in the world. That starts to cross over into differen thing but I try to live my life the way that I normally would.

"I never wanted to be famous or never dreamed of being famous. I wanted to be known for my golf and that was it."

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