Rory McIlroy says he’s starting to see the benefits of the work he’s put into revitalizing his game as he prepares to make his first Irish Open appearance since 2018.
The world number 10, the tournament winner in 2016, took advantage of a share of the lead on the final day of the US Open earlier this month before his challenge faded into the final nine.
The County Down native will compete this week at Mount Juliet ahead of the Scottish Open and Open Championship in consecutive weeks.
“Everything I’ve worked on has started to blend in and the game is feeling great,” McIlroy said.
“I am very encouraged by the way I have been playing all week [at the US Open], the 67 I shot on Saturday was one of my best shots in a long time. “
McIlroy will be part of a strong group this week in Kilkenny with big winners Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell all competing in their home event.
McDowell and McIlroy both missed last year’s rescheduled competition at Galgorm, while the latter also pulled out of the 2019 tournament at Lahinch.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been a long time,” said McIlroy, who started Thursday at 1:00 pm BST.
“Ballyliffin [in 2018] seems to be a lifetime ago, so I’m looking forward to this week. “
The four-time grand prize winner traveled alone from his home in Florida, with his wife and daughter remaining in the United States due to travel complications caused by the pandemic.
He now faces an extended stay on the road, with his first Olympic appearance after the Open.
“Until about a week ago they were going to come with me. The plan was to play here, take the week off after that, and then play the Open, but with the way it all went. with isolation and quarantine, it wasn’t fair to put them through that, ”he said.
“It’s going to be five of the next six weeks on the road without seeing them, so I just made sure last week to spend as much time with them as possible, which means I haven’t seen my golf clubs much. . “
An understandable limited number of spectators
Having enjoyed a large crowd at courses in the United States for a while, McIlroy is set for a different experience this week with only a limited number of spectators allowed at Mount Juliet.
The Northern Irishman was supported by returning crowds, giving them a major role in his victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.
“This country is taking a different approach to Covid compared to other places, including the United States where things are really starting to open up,” he said.
“The more people the better for me, I’ve always said that I like playing in front of them and I wish there were more but I understand why there aren’t. “
McIlroy will represent Ireland at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo alongside Lowry, after withdrawing from the 2016 Games over concerns over the Zika virus.
After being doubly vaccinated against Covid-19, the 32-year-old says his fears have allayed as he prepares to do his Olympic bow.
“The attitude I live in now is very different from what it is here. I feel like we have been living in relative freedom for several months at this point,” he said.
“I have no worries, I’m going to go out there and play by the rules they’ve set for us, and try to make the most of it.”