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Irish Open 2015: Rory McIlroy is desperate for a happy homecoming

McIlroy relishing big opportunity to banish his poor run of form at the Irish Open

By Peter Hutcheon

Rory McIlroy has unfinished business when it comes to the Irish Open. In seven attempts, he has managed just a single top 10 finish at his home event - and he's missed the cut at both of the last two.

"It's something that hasn't sat well with me," he said as he prepared to host the tournament at Royal County Down this week.

"It think it's to do with maybe trying too hard when you get back home and you push yourself too much. I'm just going to try and enjoy myself this week and relish the opportunity to play at home.

"It would be great to win obviously and I'll be trying my best out there."

McIlroy reckons he hasn't been as excited about any tournament this year - with the sole exception of the Masters, in which he could have completed his career Grand Slam of Major titles.

Missing the cut in his defence of the BMW PGA at Wentworth last week was probably the best thing that could have happened to the world number one ahead of what will be another punishing, busy week.

He was out at Royal County Down early yesterday for a couple of practice holes but the rest of the day was taken up with sponsor events and other commitments.

"If there was any weekend to miss, coming off the back of three good weeks in the states, it was this one," he said.

"I was probably in need of a little bit of rest. I wasn't angry, just a little disappointed."

The Newcastle links is one of McIlroy's favourite courses and now that he finds his home course of Holywood too short, this is where he tends to play with his mates on his increasingly rare visits back home.

And if any course rewards local knowledge it is Royal County Down with its many blind shots.

McIlroy's best Irish Open finish came back in his first appearance in 2008 when he finished seventh at Adare Manor.

Since then, though, he's managed no higher than 34th place, missed the cut in 2013 at Carton House and again last year at Fota Island.

The strength of the field this week has led to an increase in the amount of world ranking points available - something not lost on McIlroy (right) as he seeks to increase his advantage at the top over second-placed Masters champion Jordan Spieth.

And he insists that acting as tournament host, with his Rory McIlroy Foundation one of the key sponsors, won't affect his chances.

"I feel like I've found a nice balance between what I'm doing on the course and what I'm doing away from the course," he said.

"Even in weeks like this where you go to evening functions and try to help as much as you can to put on a great event, the balance is good.

"There are a lot of obligations this week but that shouldn't get in the way of me going out there and playing good golf.

"Hosting the event with my foundation gives me an added incentive. I'm delighted that we are going to raise a lot of money for a lot of kids who need it so that will add to what will be a great week."

Practice was low-key for most of the players at Royal County Down yesterday and the benign conditions didn't really give an indication of what the weather is likely to be from Thursday onwards.

Winds of up to 30 miles per hour are forecast for Saturday which will make the course a much more interesting proposition. Sadly, rain is also forecast for all four days of the tournament as well.

A few tickets still remain for the first day's play on Thursday, but all 60,000 for the other three days have already been snapped up.

Belfast Telegraph


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