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Rory McIlroy can end 2015 on a high with victory in Turkey


Turkish delight: Rory McIlroy enjoying a practice round with caddie JP Fitzgerald ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open

Turkish delight: Rory McIlroy enjoying a practice round with caddie JP Fitzgerald ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open

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Turkish delight: Rory McIlroy enjoying a practice round with caddie JP Fitzgerald ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open

The last time Rory McIlroy competed in Turkey, he "gave up a bit" during his first match in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, lost his remaining two as well and finished last in the eight-man exhibition event.

Consolation came in the shape of $300,000 (£195,000), an afternoon on the beach with then-girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and a first Race to Dubai title five weeks later following a brilliant victory in the DP World Tour Championship.

Three years on, Holywood star McIlroy contests the Turkish Airlines Open, which begins today, looking to complete an injury-affected 2015 in style with a fourth win of the season and a third money list title in four years.

"I feel like a lot has happened and a lot of time has gone by since that last win of mine back in May (the Wells Fargo Championship)," said McIlroy, who ruptured a ligament in his left ankle during a game of football with friends on July 4, ruling him out of the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles.

"I'm just trying to finish the season off well. I'd like to win the Race to Dubai for a third time, that would be a great achievement.

"I'd like to win at least one of these last three events that I'm playing. That would make me feel better about the end of the year.

"From when I injured my ankle at the start of July, if I was to go from then to the end of the season without another win, especially with how I was playing up until that point, it would be very disappointing.

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"So I've got three opportunities coming up to try and get a win or two on the board and end this year on a positive, to at least go into next year with a bit of momentum."

McIlroy, who enjoys a 271,214-point lead over Danny Willett in the Race to Dubai, will partner Willett and fifth-placed Shane Lowry for the first two rounds in Turkey and will also contest next week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The 26-year-old has slipped to third in the world rankings behind Jason Day and Jordan Spieth after the pair won three of the season's four Majors between them, but insists he is not concerned about sending his rivals a message.

"I'm not thinking about those guys," McIlroy, who has four Major titles, added. "I'm just concentrating on myself and trying to get my game back to where I know it can be, and if I can do that, then all the rest of that stuff will take care of itself.

"I always have the belief. The good thing for me is that I can draw on some of the great performances and the memories that I have from winning big tournaments and knowing that if I've done that before, there's no reason why I can't do that again."

McIlroy believes his putting has held him back since returning from injury, admitting it was more of a mental than a technical problem after finishing 26th in the Frys.com Open.

"I felt like every time I missed the putt, there was a question that followed it; Did I pull it, did I misread it?" McIlroy added. "And so I've worked quite a bit on routine, trying to free myself up and simplify it a little bit instead. I felt like sometimes I was making it a little bit more complicated than it has to be.

"I feel I'm a good putter. I feel like I hole out well. I definitely hole out much better than I used to do. And when I get my eye in, I'm really good. But I don't get my eye in as much as I'd like to. I'll always be somewhat of a streaky putter."

As for his ankle, McIlroy revealed he has stepped up his fitness regime recently, adding: "I'm pretty much back to where I need to be.

"I've started to train the way I was before the injury again, and I'm happy about that.

"So I'm trying to get my game back into the shape that I know that I can and feel like I've made a few steps in the right direction."

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