Wednesday, 04 October 2017
Rory McIlroy relishing links challenge

Rory McIlroy is looking to finish a disappointing year on the golf course with a flourish when he tees it up at this week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The Northern Irishman sustained a rib injury last winter, a problem that flared up as he lost out in a play-off to Graeme Storm at the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni - his first event of the European Tour season.

That was the first of six top tens in 11 events - including a second-placed finish at last week's British Masters supported by Sky Sports - but should McIlroy not prevail over the Old Course at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie this week, it would be his first winless season since 2013 as he shuts down to fully recover from his injury.

That barren run in 2013 saw the 28 year old briefly drop out of the top ten in the Official World Golf Ranking but he came roaring back in 2014, reclaiming top spot thanks to four wins including two Major Championships.

And after a 2017 that saw McIlroy get married to Erica in the summer, he was philosophical about his campaign.

"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 said.

"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 gave myself a decent chance last week so it's just good to know that there's good stuff in there.

"At the end of the day, the result isn't just dependent on me. I could play very well and shoot 20 under par this week and someone could shoot 22 under par. I could walk away from the week feeling very happy and feeling like I played well. Sometimes your best isn't quite good enough to get the win.

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 - Rory McIlroy

"A bit like last week, if someone had said to me 'you're going to shoot 17 under par this week', I would have bitten their hand off on Thursday morning thinking that's going to get the job done and it didn't quite.

"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 is playing this event for the first time since 2014 and will team up with his dad Gerry in the pro-am team format at a tournament where he has had four top threes in six appearances.

"It's nice to be back," he said. "Nice to be able to play a few rounds with my dad.

"The Dunhill has always been a great week, it's always been a very enjoyable week. I've always seemed to play well here probably because of sort of the relaxed atmosphere that there is. It's nice to go and play the different courses and get back at night.

"It's a very social week, it's great to catch up with everyone. I've been looking forward to this week for a long time and hopefully I can end the year on a positive note and turn in a couple of good scores and give myself another chance to win this week, I guess."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1HATTON, TyrrellENG18-24
2FISHER, RossENG18-21
3DUBUISSON, VictorFRA18-17
T4WARREN, MarcSCO18-14
T4ROCK, RobertENG18-14
T4BOURDY, GrégoryFRA18-14

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