McIlroy happy despite being unable to land Race to Dubai
Rory McIlroy insists 2019 has been a hugely positive despite having no chance of claiming the Race to Dubai with a third DP World Tour Championship win this week.
The world No 2 is too far behind leader Bernd Wiesberger having played just 12 events to the Austrian's 28.
"I've won it three times," said McIlroy, who will have pal and former Ulster fly-half Niall O'Connor on his bag as Harry Diamond spends time with his newborn baby daughter.
"It's a wonderful feeling to be able to do it. I haven't played enough counting European Tour events to have a chance.
"You look at someone like a Bernd Wiesberger that's played 25, 26, 27 times, whatever it is. Those are the guys that deserve to be up there with a chance to win."
O'Connor, who made 59 appearances across two stints with Ulster and won a further 20 caps with Connacht, is no stranger to the golf course having played in several amateur tournaments across Ireland.
Now working at a private equity firm in New York City, O'Connor has taken the week off in order to help out friend McIlroy, who got to know him through his support of the Ulster rugby team.
McIlroy didn't join the European Tour until May, which meant the points he earned in the WGC-Mexico Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play or the Masters didn't count in Europe's season-long race.
But he believes his US-centric schedule will help in the long run, insisting: "This year has been a great learning year for me in terms of knowing what works... not travelling quite as much at the start of the year."
He added: "I've had a wonderful season and I feel like I've figured out a few things that really helped me.
"It's been a good formula this year, and I don't see any reason to change anything going into next year."
McIlroy skipped the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and made a deal with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley to play three Rolex Series events a year rather than two extra tournaments for missing his home tournament.
Justifying the agreement, Pelley said: "Similar to Tiger, he changes every tournament that he is in.
"So it behoves us to do as much as we possibly can to give a pathway for Rory to play. Every time Rory plays, we celebrate."
Open champion Shane Lowry knows he will win the Race to Dubai if he wins this week and Wiesberger finishes lower than tied second with one other.
He will also claim the season-long race if finishes solo second and Wiesberger is worse than solo 19th, providing neither Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm or Matthew Fitzpatrick wins the event.
"I'm going to go out and give my best this week, and no matter what happens, I will be sitting back next week with a major trophy in my cabinet this year, and I'll be happy with what I have," Lowry said.
"But it would be incredible to add European No.1 to that list, as well."
Expressing his admiration for McIlroy's "carefree attitude" and ability to shrug off bad shots, he admitted he'd love to be more consistent.
"It's not as easy thinking, right, I want to be more consistent and being able to go out and shoot 68 every day," Lowry said. "You have to work for what you get.
"The one thing that I do, and the one thing I've always done is I feel like once I go to bed at night, if I've done something to try and improve that game, I'm happy."