Rory McIlroy is looking to end his home hoodoo at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation this week as he aims to win a first European Tour title on Irish soil.
The Northern Irishman has 12 European Tour wins to his name but has struggled in recent years at his home Open, missing the cut for the last three seasons.
The three-time Race to Dubai winner’s best finish in this event came back in 2008, when he finished seventh, but he arrives at The K Club with five top ten finishes from as many events this campaign and is desperate to have a successful week on home soil in the tournament he is hosting.
McIlroy will play the first two rounds alongside Søren Kjeldsen, who will seek to become the first player to launch a successful defence of the Irish Open title since Colin Montgomerie in 1997.
The Dane cites his win at Royal County Down as a turning point in his career, as he went from thoughts of retirement to contemplating a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine.
Rory McIlroy: “It always was, but even more so now, the Irish Open has become one of the most important weeks of the year for me.
“That’s for a couple of different reasons – we’re here to try and raise as much money as we possibly can for three local charities in the Dublin area, but also it's a tournament that I desperately would love to win one day.
“My performances in this event haven’t been as good as I would’ve liked. I want to really change that this week with a good performance, and I feel like my game is in good enough shape to do that.
“I’m coming off a couple of decent weeks in the States where I felt like I played better than what the results suggested, so I'm looking forward to the week. The K Club here is a golf course where I feel I can do well, because it sets up well for me.”
Søren Kjeldsen: “I now go to the range and try to explore things, try to experience things that I haven't tried before. And the whole thing about getting away from right and wrong has freed me up tremendously.
“I’m 40th in the world now, but basically I’ve really just been practising like this for 12 to 18 months, so I’m just starting out and the sky’s the limit.
“If I had to give a number, I think I can still improve about another 30 per cent. So that is quite a big improvement and if I manage to do that, I think I’ll be very close to winning some big tournaments.
Graeme McDowell: “I’ve generally been feeling very good about my game this year. I started strong early in the season, but lost my way a little bit into the Match Play and the Masters.
“So I hit the reset button, and I’m starting to get those good feelings back again, a little bit of confidence seeing the ball do what I want it to do.
“It’s great to be back at The K Club, I’ve got some good memories from The 2006 Ryder Cup. The Irish Open has gone from strength to strength, and with what Rory has done for this event, the future is looking really, really bright.
“The European Tour’s initiative with giving the guys some ownership of the tournaments – looking at this one with Rory, and the British Masters with Justin and Ian and Luke, and the Spanish with Sergio, and so on and so on – I think it’s a great initiative. I think guys are getting behind it, and obviously it’s helping drive the finances and it’s helping drive the fields. It’s definitely good news that this event has really had that injection of energy on all levels.”