Rory McIlroy is looking to avoid a first season without a win since 2008 when he tees it up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week in the company of his father Gerry.
The Holywood golfer claimed his first professional win at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and since then has won every season on either the European, PGA, PGA of Australasia or Asian Tour, including claiming four majors.
That run will come to an end if he does not take victory over St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie this week, after a season that has seen him plagued by a rib injury he sustained last winter.
McIlroy admits his marriage in the summer has taken the edge off his problems on the course but he is determined to play well before shutting down for the seasonto recover from his injury.
“In a golfing sense it has not been the year that I wanted but a lot of great things have happened to me off the golf course and 2017 will always be a year I remember because of that,” he told a press conference at St Andrews yesterday.
“It hasn’t been the year I wanted in terms of my career but you’re going to have years that just don’t quite go your way. There’s some things that are out of your control. I’ve tried my best to play well and persevere and play through an injury and it just hasn’t quite happened for me.
“I think this year has not been anywhere near as bad as the year I had in 2013 and I bounced back from that year pretty well the year after. Hopefully I can do the same next year, I guess.
“I’m not under pressure to win. The result, if you play well and things go your way, that takes care of itself. But it would just be nice to string a few more good rounds together and put in a performance and that would be a nice way to end the year.”
McIlroy spent his final practice round in the company of young Scottish player Connor Syme, who is hoping to continue his promising start to his professional career.
“Connor seems like he’s got a really good head on his shoulders at 22 years old. He seems very mature. Not fazed by anything at all. He’s got a nice game, solid swing and sort of does everything the right way. I don’t see any real weaknesses,” McIlroy said.
The young Scot was thrilled by the opportunity.
“You can’t buy that experience. It was absolutely brilliant to have that opportunity. It’s obviously great to hear Rory talking highly about my game. It was great to play with him. It’s a great insight for me to see how he does it.”
England’s Tyrrell Hatton returns to Scotland as a defending champion for the first time and he believes the weather will play a major role in the outcome of the event.
He has again been paired with Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan at the tournament, which sees professionals and amateurs teaming up to take on all three courses over the week before the professionals battle it out at the Home of Golf on the final day.
“Playing three courses, a huge part of that depends on what kind of draw you get,” Hatton said.
“You can play Kingsbarns or St Andrews on a really calm day and shoot decent scores and if you get Carnoustie, or to be honest any of the other courses, on a really tough day then you’re going to struggle.
“That’s what links golf is about. Hopefully whatever sort of conditions there are, I can manage them well.”
Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood has had plenty to celebrate away from the golf course, arriving at St Andrews just a few days after the birth of his son, Franklin, but he admits his focus is now on finishing 2017 as the European Tour Number One.
“Anybody that has been through it (having a child) will tell you it’s surreal and it’s amazing.
“This part of the year, it’s an important time to play massive events. We all know what’s on the line. I would love to win the Race to Dubai, absolutely love it.”
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