Rory McIlroy believes that he in prime shape to challenge for a maiden home title at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation, and the World Number One revealed that any earnings he makes come the end of the week will go to his charitable foundation.
The Northern Irishman missed the cut at last week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, but believes that the weekend’s rest has done him a lot of good.
Now he is ready for battle, and the 26 year old will have to overcome a strong field if he is to add this trophy to his ever-expanding collection, with reigning US Open Champion Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and four-time Major champion Ernie Els leading an impressive list of international stars looking to upstage McIlroy and fellow Irish Major winning legends Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington at Royal County Down Golf Club.
“I do feel refreshed. I didn’t get out of bed until one o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday. I came here on Sunday and played a quiet 18 holes, then I came back on Monday morning and played.
“I feel very prepared. That was my third practice round. I haven’t played three practice rounds for a tournament since the Masters. I really just want to do well this week and it’s given me a bit of extra time which I think I can use.
“It’s great that we have assembled such a great field on a world class golf course. With everyone here, there’s a lot of buzz, there’s a lot of talk about the tournament and at the same time, we are going to help a lot of people because of this tournament, as well.
“So we are going to achieve a lot of good things this week. Hopefully I can get all the people out there that followed me on the range something to cheer about with some good golf.
“What I want to get out of it this year is just to raise a lot of money for the Foundation and for the cancer fund. Ultimately if I play well, and if I do well in the tournament, then all the money that I earn is going to go towards that, as well.
“So I’m not really playing for myself this week. I’m playing for a lot of other people and it gives me an incentive to go out there and enjoy it and try to play well.”
“My first victory on The European Tour was here – my first victory as a professional. I’m excited about this week. Obviously it’s a big tournament, there are a lot of great players in the field and it’s a great course. Add the fact that Rory’s Foundation is hosting the event and you have an exciting week ahead.
“Rory asked me as a favour, from a friend to a friend, to play this week and it’s for a great cause. It was a fairly easy decision to come here and obviously I’ve been looking forward to having an excuse to come back to the Irish Open, so I guess that was a good one.
“I think it’s great to put your name into a European Tour event. I was able to do it for years in Castellón in Spain and it was very, very exciting. It’s a lot of work but at the same time, you get a lot of things back, from the feel of the people and the joy of the week.”
“I’m definitely excited about the week, excited to get the invite from Rory, when we knew the event was going to be something he was going to be a part of with his Foundation.
“So I had been looking forward to getting over here and Royal County Down is one of my favourites – it always has been since we played the Walker Cup here in 2007. I have some great memories from that.
“I really enjoyed getting to see the golf course again the past few days, I got to see good weather and then a little bit of rain and wind today. We’ll see what the rest of the week has to hold for us and I’m just ready to get things going.
“I’m coming off a great win and this is my first start back. It’s a different style of golf over here but links golf is my favourite. I really enjoy getting to hit the different shots and thinking my way around the golf course. The game feels good, I’m excited to get back at it and want to get myself back in contention.”
“It’s great to be back here. Obviously Portrush a few years ago put Northern Ireland golf on the map from the point of view of what we are capable of.
“It led to The Open Championship coming back to Portrush and I really believe that County Down can be a runner for an Open Championship. I’m a little biased towards Portrush, of course, but there’s something about this golf course that I love.
“I love the elevation changes and the bunkering. This will be a really, really great showcase I think for golf and Ireland in general.
“Everything Rory has done to promote the tournament has been great. He has brought Dubai Duty Free into the fold and put together the kind of field that has really helped elevate this tournament back to one of the premiere events on The European Tour, so big thanks to him and his team and it should be a fun weekend.”
“It’s good to come back to Royal County Down. This is about as good as it gets to play The Irish Open. Many, many years ago, I played at Killarney and I had an invite. I didn’t have a European Tour card, so they gave me an invite and I played there.
“So I’ve got to thank the Irish Open for doing that for me. I didn’t make too much money at that event but it did help me get a Tour card. In any case, yeah, it’s good to be back and I’m looking forward to this week.
“Rory and myself, we are good friends. He asked me quite a few months ago if I could get this one in my schedule, and it was an easy yes, although I missed my daughter’s birthday yesterday. But it was an easy yes, just because of the fact that he’s help with our charity work so much.
“Ever since he turned pro, he played some tournaments in South Africa, and we run a Foundation event down there and he played it for a couple of years.
“We run some Foundation work in the US and he plays it every single year. So when you have the World No. 1 in your field, it’s easy to ask people for money, you know. To come and play here was not a problem.”