The Northern Irishman, after opting to pull out of the Turkish Airlines Open a couple of weeks ago, is 1,176,414 points behind Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson, which means the Swede, and second-ranked Danny Willett, will have to play exceptionally poorly for him to retain his European crown.
But on a golf course where his worst finish in the past seven starts is a tied 11th place in 2011, the world No2 is keen to win the European Tour’s season-ending championship for the third time.
An added motivation would have been the fact that McIlroy had a chance to regain his world No1 ranking from Jason Day with a win, but that will have to wait after Russell Knox’s withdrawal from the tournament brought down the strength of the field.
The winner now gets 52 world ranking points on Sunday instead of the 54 if world No18 Knox had played, and that won’t be enough for McIlroy to overtake Day.
“It’s always good to be back here. I have great memories from this place, so, yeah, looking forward to the week,” said the 27-year-old.
“I feel like my game is in pretty good shape. I’ve played this golf course pretty well in the past, and hopefully can play it just as well, if not better this week. It would be a good way to finish the year on a high and get a victory and lift the trophy and hopefully make the turkey taste a bit better at Christmas.
“Mathematically, I can win the Race to Dubai, but it’s not going to happen. I wouldn’t hold my breath. I think the three guys that are ahead of me are playing very good golf, especially the two Swedes, Henrik (Stenson) and Alex (Noren).
“So I don’t expect those guys to play badly this week. I’m just concentrating on trying to win the golf tournament and if I can do that, I’ll be very happy.”
McIlroy was happy with his season with three wins and the FedEx Cup title, but would have liked to have done better in the majors.
“It’s been good. I’ve won a couple of things that I hadn’t won before. I won the Irish Open, which a huge thing personally for me.
“It might not be the biggest tournament in the world, but personally, in my mind, it is one of the biggest I play all year. And to win the FedEx Cup, as well, was big,” said McIlroy.