Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Rory McIlroy: 'I know Jumeirah Golf Estates like the back of my hand'

World No2 out of Race to Dubai but confident of success at DP World Tour Championship

Rory McIlroy may be out of contention for the Race to Dubai, but he still hopes to sign off his fine season with another win this weekend at a course he feels like he could play blindfolded.

The world No2 saw his chances of reaching the summit of the Order of Merit fade in absentia on Sunday.

He won the WGC HSBC Champions on his last start, in China three weeks ago, to give himself a chance of topping the money list.

However, when Bernd Wiesberger finished in a tie for third at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa two weeks later, it meant he could no longer be overhauled by McIlroy at the top of the rankings.

Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry and Matthew Fitzpatrick are all mathematically able to leapfrog Wiesberger.

McIlroy, the next highest-ranked player in the field, might not be able to, but he still appeared content with life after arriving at Jumeirah Golf Estates ahead of the DP World Tour Championship.

“I have won [the Race to Dubai] three times, and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to do it, but I just haven’t played enough counting European Tour events to have a chance,” McIlroy said.

“If you look at someone like Bernd Wiesberger, who has played [28] times, those are the guys who deserve to be up there with a chance to win.”

McIlroy is well used to walking away from the Earth Course with swag of some description. As well as his three Order of Merit titles, he has won the Championship itself twice, in 2012 and 2015.

If he were to repeat the trick this week, it would be his fifth win on tour this season, which would equal his best ever haul for a single campaign.

When he tees it up at 12.20pm on Thursday, McIlroy will be without his regular caddie Harry Diamond, who is on paternity leave.

Instead, he will be aided by Niall O’Connor, a former professional rugby player who played a number of games for the Irish Wolfhounds, the team below Ireland's full national team.

“If there is any week where I don’t have Harry on the bag, it’s good it is this week,” McIlroy said.

“I feel like I could play this place blindfolded. I have been coming here for 10 years. I know the place like the back of my hand.

“Niall got a few A-caps for Ireland, played for Ulster a lot of times. He knows what it feels like in the heat of the battle.

“Obviously we don't have 18-stone (110kg) men running at us like he has in the past. It's a little bit different.

“Also, he's a pretty good golfer himself. He's played a lot of amateur tournaments in Ireland, so he knows the game well.

"It will be a great experience for both of us, and you know, as long as I stay loose and relaxed out there, that's the most important thing."

Updated: November 19, 2019 07:14 PM

SHARE

SHARE