When you’re 23, top of the world, have a Major in your back pocket and €10.5m in prize money this season it’s fair to say you’re hot property.
But for Rory McIlroy there’s no time to dwell on the year and he has already identified a target he wants to claim in 2013 — the Irish Open. Following a controversial two weeks, where his management team denied he was commanding a €1.6m fee to play the Australian Open and Oakley suing him for signing a €160m contract with Nike, he declared that the Carton House event was a very special part of his schedule.
“Winning the Irish Open would be very special,” he said.
“I know Pádraig Harrington has talked a lot about how he felt when he won and how proud he was of that achievement.
“I’d love to win it, although it’s tough to play in front of your home crowds at times. It brings its own pressures and you want to do so well for them and they live and breathe every shot with you!
“When you make a bogey there’s a big ‘aahhhh’ and when you make a birdie there’s a big roar and it’s tough sometimes not to try too hard — but hopefully I am going to win not just one Irish Open but a few Irish Opens in my career.”
And McIlroy has a good experience to draw on from for the event: the Holywood golfer played his first Irish Open at Carton House when he was just 16 in 2005.
“I like Carton House and I’ve a little bit of history there. It was the first Irish Open I played, over the Monty course, and I have great memories of going down there [from Belfast] as part of Irish amateur squads. It’s a place I enjoy going back to.”
There have only been two Irish winners of the Irish Open during the country’s golden period in golf — Shane Lowry in 2009 and Harrington in ’07.
For McIlroy, who finished joint seventh in Portrush last year, the names on the winning trophy make it one of the most desirable accolades in the game.
“The history of the Irish Open is very special too, with such a great list of champions from Nick Faldo to Seve [Ballesteros], Bernhard Langer, Sergio Garcia and Pádraig Harrington. So many European greats have won that tournament and I think that’s what makes it so special.”
Meanwhile, McIlroy has been voted the overwhelming choice of the best male player by the Golf Writers’ Association of America.
McIlroy received 190 out of the 194 votes cast by GWAA members.
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