McIlroy aiming to finish season on a high

Joy Chakravarty 21:01 15/11/2016
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Rory McIlroy.

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.

“My play in majors was disappointing.…missing the cut at the US Open and the PGA. Apart from majors aside, I feel like it’s been a pretty good, consistent year.”

McIlroy said the biggest lesson from the season was not to get too obstinate about his golf.

“I’d like sometimes not to be too proud. I felt like I went long enough without asking advice on putting because that was the thing that was letting me down,” he added.

“I wanted to figure it out on my own but really needed a second opinion. Not that I was too proud, but I was too stubborn. I wanted to figure it out on my own because I   always feel that way you take ownership of it and it’s yours.

“But sometimes you need a second opinion. I got that in August, and it really turned the season round for me.”

McIlroy courted controversy by withdrawing from the Turkish event at the last minute. It also killed his Race to Dubai chances, but he maintained he was satisfied with his decision and that it did not harm his image.

“I think I do enough good things on and off course, charity wise and the way I carry myself, that pulling out of a couple of events is not going to change that,” said McIlroy.

“I’d rather go to Turkey wanting to win the tournament than go there not wanting to win it and finish 40th. What good does that do the tournament?

“The biggest way to promote golf is not my face on posters but winning the tournament at the end of the week and that won’t happen if I don’t feel comfortable being there.

“Will I play there next year? I don’t know…after what I read this year, probably not.”

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