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Monday, May 16, 2022

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open – Rory McIlroy ‘I was good friends with him, and then he picked the City job’

As with previous years, the Irish Open is hosted by The Rory Foundation. A non profit charity set up in his name to help ill, disadvantaged and under privileged children and the famalies lives.

Rory will be looking to retain the Irish Open title after winning it for the first time last year at the K-Club. Will he bring it back to Northern Ireland for the second time? We’ll know by Sunday evening.

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Prior to taking to the course on Wednesday with his team for the Pro-Am’s, rory held a press conference.

Rory McIlroy Press Conference
Rory McIlroy Press Conference – Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
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Opening the press conference Rory talked about his foundations role in the Irish Open tournament.

The Irish Open has become one of the biggest weeks in the year, not only for me, but for our foundation. We’re able to raise a lot of money for worthy causes during this week, and that started last night with a great evening in Belfast with Pep. We were able to raise a lot of money for that.

Obviously I’m able to donate my prize money to the foundation, as well, with obviously with a $7 million prize fund is going to be substantial if I play any way decent. So that’s good. It’s an added bonus that The European Tour Foundation ha pledged £100,000 to the foundation, as well.

It’s fantastic that we’re able to, we have been able to — the foundation, myself along with The European Tour been able to raise the profile of this event from where it was a few years ago to what it is now; but at the same time, being able to help all these worthy causes. We raised over a million Euros last year and hopefully we can do the same this year.

His friendship with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been a bit story for this tournament with Pep joining him on his team for the Pro-Am’s. Rory was asked about his close friendship with Pep.

I was good friends with him, and then he picked the City job, so I don’t know (chuckle). But no, my relationship with Pep started at The Ryder Cup in 2012. He was there. That was sort of his sabbatical year from management. He loves his golf. He went to the Masters that year. Went to The Ryder Cup. Struck up a bit of a relationship.

Actually Pep and my dad, basically, walked all three days together and my dad is a huge City fan at that time he was asking, Pep, when are you going to come manage City, and obviously he got his wish four years later I guess. That’s how it started.

Then I caught up with him sort of in March or April this year. I actually used a facility, the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance, to do some testing, and it’s right beside’s City’s training grounds. So I caught up for lunch with him and asked if he would come over; we would love to have him and to play in the Pro-Am and obviously to have a chat last night, which he did. He’s very generous with his time

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The change of date for the Irish Open tournament from May to July was raised and Rory seemed pleased with the move saying;

It’s fantastic to get the date. I think it’s been one of the biggest achievements of this whole journey in the last few years of The Irish Open is being able to get a better date. Look, the weather is always going to be unreliable in this country.

So moving it from May to July, you have to have at least a better chance of some great weather, but not just that, you’re playing links golf leading up to The Open. And that’s I didn’t have the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm and Justin Rose and a lot of other guys that are playing. It’s a great lead-up to obviously The Open championship at Birkdale in a few week’s time. That’s why I’m here. That’s not just the reason I’m here; it’s the reason I’m playing in The Scottish Open next week, as well, is just to get some links golf and be competitive.

Rory will oviously be looking to bring the title back this year again to Northern Ireland after last years win, but after a few injuries what kind of form does Rory think he’s in?

I think I learnt a lot at County Down in 2015 of what I can and can’t handle in terms of what I put on my plate for the week.

I think it’s almost like I split the week into two parts. Monday to Wednesday, I get everything that I need to get done, whether it’s the night last night or obviously all of this stuff, all of the stuff outside of playing and practising and preparing to play the golf tournament.

But then once I sort of get Wednesday over and done with, it’s purely golf and I just want to play as best I can. I think if I can play well and get myself into contention, it’s a great thing for me, but it’s also a great thing for everyone else; someone that’s local, a top player, creates interest and it’s great for the tournament.

From tomorrow onwards, it’s just about the golf and trying to play as best I can and trying to win.

Rory went on to describe his form as;

It’s been up and down obviously, with the injury and everything, it’s been a bit of a stop-start year. There’s enough good in there. I’ve played a lot over the past couple of weeks. I signed off at the Travelers with a 64 and played really well.

I’ve played quite a bit of links golf over the past ten days since being home. My game feels in really good shape. Never quite know till you’re out there in the heat of competition, but game feels in good shape. I don’t want to talk myself up too much, but my game is feeling good.

How close is Rory to his next win?

I’m close. Look, I’ve got two big opportunities coming up this summer. Birkdale is a golf course I feel I can do well at. I played there on Thursday. I feel like I got a really good feel for what I need to do around it and what parts of your game you need to have in good order.

And then Quail Hollow for the PGA, I’ve won there two times, my first win on the PGA TOUR and last time I won by seven. I got beat in a playoff before, as well, with a couple of Top-10s. It’s a course I’ve got great memories and I’ve played well on before. I think they are two opportunities for me to get back on the major ladder and start to win those again.

So getting back to the tournament in hand, where does it go from here, well Rory has his own opinions on the bright future of the tournament.

Get the prize fund to 10 million, that would be good. But no, just keep it where it is. The whole reason we started this journey was to try and get this tournament back to where it was in the 80s and 90s with the likes of Seve and Faldo and Langer and all of those guys coming and playing and winning, and there was a great buzz around the tournament.

I felt like the tournament had lost that buzz a little bit. Even though we had Pádraig Harrington, who is a three-time major winner, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, myself, it should be one of the best tournaments on The European Tour.

There was an opportunity there in 2013 and 2014 to start of partner with The European Tour and try to do something about that. I felt like sort of my obligation to help in some way, and I feel like we’ve done a great job so far. Now it’s just about trying to keep the tournament towards that. It’s a Rolex Series event. It’s a huge prize fund and you’ve got some of the best players in the world here and a great date, as well, on links golf. It doesn’t get much better than that.

so all eyes will be on the North Coast over the next few days in the hope that the dubai Duty Free Irish Open title can stay in Northern Ireland.

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