McIlroy seeks home comforts at Irish Open
Links golf is back on the menu this weekend as the European Tour lands in Donegal for the Irish Open, and one Champion Golfer in particular is keen to put on a show.
Rory McIlroy is once again hosting the tournament and, with The 147th Open now just three weeks away, the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year is keen to get back into top form.
The Ulsterman is one of 13 golfers from the Emerald Isle taking part this weekend, but there is an international flavour in a high-calibre field at Ballyliffin this week – where three spots at Carnoustie are up for grabs.
McIlroy's heading home
July will have been flagged by the McIlroy camp months ago as the key section of his season, with a home tournament in Donegal followed up by The Open.
It’s been a promising campaign for McIlroy but 2018 has yet to deliver a fifth major, making his preparations for the rigorous test at Carnoustie vitally important.
Gutted I can’t support @McIlroyRory this week at the @DDFIrishOpen! Best of luck on this week Rors you’ve done so much for the Irish Open.— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) July 1, 2018
If your about please support Rory and go watch some great golf at @Ballyliffin! https://t.co/AYpr3VJAwx
The Northern Irishman has shown flashes of his best, with victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March his first since 2016.
But he has since admitted his ball striking is not where he would want it to be – although he remains confident he can raise his standard at Ballyliffin, where he has been an honorary member since his days as an amateur.
“The game’s okay. Look, it's never that far away,” he said.
“I can hold it together and play okay, but just need to do a little bit of work and get my confidence up if anything. I'm just a little uncomfortable over the ball at the minute.
“I am swinging it really well and struggling with the putter.
“If you look back all through history and the guys that have done really well and been consistent throughout their careers, they've always been superior ball strikers. Then they'll have their weeks on the green which are good and some weeks that aren't.
“Look at someone like a Vijay Singh and there are a lot of players that have had consistently good careers like (Angel) Cabrera where they get the putter hot and they'll have their weeks, but they're never struggling to make cuts whenever your ball striking is good, I guess.”
Rahm back to defend title
McIlroy is far from the only superstar set to land in Donegal, with defending champion Jon Rahm in good form again.
The Spaniard won his first European Tour title at Portstewart a year ago and has since added two more, including the Open de Espana on home turf.
With a booming drive and deft short game, Rahm is well-suited to most courses and will like his chances of adding another trophy to his cabinet.
He and McIlroy are the only two top-ten ranked players competing but, in Rafa Cabrera Bello, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Alex Levy, there are plenty of in-form players likely to challenge.
Champion Golfers Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, alongside McIlroy, spearhead the home charge – while the likes of Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Paul Dunne and Paul McGinley are also in a competitive field.
McGinley predicts perfect Open warm-up
This is McIlroy’s last season as Irish Open host before he hands over the reins to Paul McGinley from next season, so it is fitting that he bows out at a course close to his heart.
This is the first time the tournament has been hosted at Ballyliffin and McGinley believes it is the perfect venue to prepare for Carnoustie.
"The Glashedy is a great course, and it's a big golf course,” he said.
"But like all links courses, whether it's in Ireland or Scotland, we are looking for moderate weather. Bright and breezy is ideal
"We need the breeze, and we certainly don't want it playing too soft as was the case at Royal Birkdale last year, when there was no wind on the Saturday and low scores were plentiful.
"But we don't want gale-force winds like we saw at Royal County Down a few years ago, we just want it bright and with a good strong breeze to test the best players in Europe.”The 147th Open takes place at Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus, from 15-22 July and you can be there to witness history by securing your ticket at TheOpen.com/Tickets.