Rory McIlroy is playing in this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and sat down with the media to talk up the event at Mount Juliet Golf Club in Thomastown, Ireland.
The 32-year old Northern Irishman, who won the long-running event in 2016, discussed, among other things, his goals for the second half of the season, along with the pressure of playing in from of the home crowd.
Here’s how the back and forth went…
Q: You’re working on a few things with Pete Cowen and a couple majors have come and gone. What would be a good second half of the season? You have The Open coming up, the Olympics and The Ryder Cup. What would be a good end of season review if you were looking at it in four months’ time?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I think getting myself into contention in another major. So getting myself into contention at The Open would be great.
I think having a chance to win both the FedExCup and The Race to Dubai; I think they are two pretty good goals of mine I’d like to try to achieve.
And yeah, like have a great Ryder Cup. Obviously that’s very important. There’s a lot of golf to play up until that point, but I’d say they are the main goals. Just give myself a chance at The Open. Give myself a chance in both FedExCup and Race to Dubai, and try to have a really good Ryder Cup.
Q: Picking up on what you were talking about the pressure, I know you’ve talked about it the last few weeks and trying not to putt yourself under that pressure. This is the first time back at the Irish Open since you hosted it for four years, and that in itself brought a lot of extra pressure. Do you feel a weight is lifted? Does it feel different coming back to the Irish Open?
RORY McILROY: A little bit. I think there’s always going to be a bit of added pressure when you come back and play an Irish Open, especially obviously being from here, but also being the favorite for the tournament and all that sort of stuff.
So there’s always those sort of pressures. But I feel like as long as I just stick to my game plan and my own expectations and try to get the most out of myself, then that’s all I can do.
But yeah, I’m looking forward to this week. I feel like the Irish Open that I won at The K Club, it’s a pretty similar set up to what it is here. Might be a little firmer this week because of the weather. But decent parkland courses, it’s something familiar to me.
It’s what I’ve been playing for the last couple years. Yeah, I feel good about my game.
So yeah, there’s always going to be pressure there. But I think if I just stick to what I’m doing and put my head down, I’ll be okay.
Q: You haven’t played in front of home fans since The Open – I know you’re excited to play in front of fans again since things opened up, but I’m sure this will be extra special this week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it will.
I mean, I wish more — it would be great if more fans were allowed in, but I understand that’s not quite possible at this time in this country. But it’s at least nice that we are playing in front of somebody. Right?
Whenever we started back last year, when there was no fans allowed, it was a tough atmosphere to play in, and getting used to playing in front of fans again in the States has been really nice.
It was great to get that win at Quail Hollow in front of a lot of people and being in contention at the U.S. Open with quite a few people there, as well.
This is a bit of a step back from what we’re used to over the last few weeks, but it’s better than playing in front of nobody.