McIlroy faces dilemma over Irish Open return

RORY McILROY is undecided whether he will contest next year’s Irish Open.

Ireland’s showcase golf week is moving from a fortnight after the British Open to three weeks before it to avoid a clash with the 2012 London Olympics.

But it means the June 28-July 1 tournament is on at the same time as the AT&T Championship at Congressional in Maryland, where McIlroy captured this year’s US Open title.

“I haven’t made a decision yet where I am going to play that week,” he said. “That stretch between the US Open and the [British] Open is the only stretch in the first part of next year I have not decided on. I don’t know what will work better for me playing links golf before the [British] Open or playing in the French Open or the Scottish Open.

“It’s a tough one and I know I need to decide what I am going to do because the people in Ireland want to see me play in the Irish Open and if I don’t play I know there will be a lot of comments.

“I am very conscious that the Irish Open needs home-grown support. It needs that support to guarantee the future but then Congressional will always have so many happy memories for me.

“It’s something I know I have to decide on.”

McIlroy did confirm he will start his 2012 season joining Tiger Woods and Jason Day at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy’s first tournament in the States in his return as a full PGA Tour member will be in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship from February 20.

And McIlroy has also revealed a heavy schedule in the lead-up to Christmas.

The current world number two will compete in next week’s UBS Hong Kong and then be joined in Dubai by new girlfriend and world number one tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki in the following week’s Dubai World Championship.

McIlroy will then be contesting the Thailand Golf Championship in Bangkok on December 15, his final event of the year.

He will then travel to Manchester on December 22 for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and will spend Christmas with his family before travelling with them on a family holiday to Thailand.

On the horizon early in 2012 is a hopeful visit to either Vietnam or Cambodia as part of his role as an ambassador with UNICEF. Earlier this year, McIlroy visited earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

“It’s something I am still genuinely involved in and I’m trying to work out when is the best time to undertake another visit for UNICEF,” he said.

“I’ve informed them I would love to visit either Vietnam or Cambodia and do something in either of those countries for the under-privileged.”

McIlroy this week represents Ireland alongside Graeme McDowell in the €5.5m Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China. And it didn’t take McIlroy very long to warm-up ahead of his first look at this week’s Blackstone course.

The course is unique as it has been built out of volcanic rock and first impression is that it’s a cross between the Maderia’s Porto Santo course and a number of the Hawaiian courses.

There are many holes that require a long carry over the rock to the fairway and when the Irish pair do make their way from tee to fairway it’s often deep down a path carved out of the volcanic rock.

After their successful pairing at last year’s Ryder Cup, McDowell is looking forward to volcanic like effort from he and McIlroy this week after being pipped two years ago by Italy.

“I’m excited to be playing alongside Rory,” said McDowell. “He’s the number two player in the world and I guess I could say I’ve got a decent partner this week.”

More in this section

Ireland's Top 10 Hidden Gems

Ten of the best golf courses in Ireland that too few people know about.

Read Here

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox