Rory McIlroy is relishing heading into the 3 Irish Open as the highest ranked player in the field and hopes the 'favourite' tag will inspire him to his second European Tour victory.
The World Number Eight is looking to follow Padraig Harrington (2007) and Shane Lowry (2009) as recent Irish winners of the event and give the home fans a Bank Holiday weekend to remember.
“I saw yesterday that I'm the top ranked player in this event and I should be the favourite,” he said. “It brings a nice little bit of added pressure just to try and perform well in front of the home crowd.
“It would mean a lot. I've won twice in my professional career, but to win here, your home championship, would be very, very special. It would definitely rank up there with one of the biggest achievements I've had in my career to date. So hopefully I can play well enough to get myself into position to do that on Sunday.”
McIlroy is playing for the first time since his rollercoaster third place at The Open Championship, where a Major Championship record-equalling 63 in the first round was followed by an 80 and then by a charge back onto the leaderboard.
"I suppose the first couple of days when I got home it was quite tough, just thinking back about that Friday," said the 21 year old. "But I'm over it now and I realise that it was still a very, very good week.
"I let the conditions and being brought off the course get to me. I just didn't handle the whole deal very well."
Fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, the US Open Champion, came 23rd at St Andrews and admits that it needed last week's break to recharge his batteries after all the attention that followed his first major title at Pebble Beach last month. He warmed up for his return with a first-ever 59 last weekend - albeit on the relatively short 6,400-yard Valley course at Portrush.
“The Irish Open is a very important event to us as Irish players, and to be here in Killarney is obviously very exciting,” said McDowell.
“The last couple of years we have seen a bit of a revival of the Irish Open and we are trying to get this event back to one of the best events on the calendar. Historically it's been a great event, a great field, with great champions of this tournament, and it's great to have it in July.”
He added: “It's going to be good scoring and the place is in good condition and it should make for an exciting weekend. Hopefully we should get some Irish names on the board and I am fully expecting to be one of them.”