Next stop Holywood, then it's a major break


GOLF: RORY McILROY – who has risen to a career high fourth in the latest world rankings on the back of his US Open win – will, as he put it himself, “definitely” play in the Irish Open at Killarney on July 28th-31st. His commitment to the tournament, which has no title sponsor and relying on financial backing from the PGA European Tour and Tourism Ireland to ensure its continuance on the circuit, will come as a major boost.

McIlroy has, however, changed his immediate schedule on the back of his hugely impressive major breakthrough at Congressional on Sunday. He has decided to withdraw from next week’s French Open – with the promise that he will play in next year’s tournament – and, now, won’t reappear on tour until he competes in next month’s British Open at Royal St George’s in the south-east of England.

“I’m going to take three weeks off, to get myself ready for the Open championship. To give myself a great chance to prepare well for that and hopefully give myself a good chance to win. I can’t really look much further ahead than that. It’s great to get this first major in the bag and hopefully I can get a few more. If it might not be this year, that’s fine. But I’ve got plenty more years to get a few more,” said McIlroy.

Having fulfilled a corporate day for Audemars Piguet in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, yesterday, McIlroy – due to arrive home to Holywood in Co Down today – will have a three-week break before reappearing at Sandwich for the season’s third major and then have a week off before a stretch that takes in the Irish Open over the Bank Holiday weekend in Kerry, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and, then, the US PGA Championship in Atlanta.

However, McIlroy won’t be taking up the option to retake his US Tour card. “No,” responded his manager Chubby Chandler when asked if McIlroy would be following the likes of Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter in playing with full cards on both the PGA and the European Tours.

“He’ll play more, but he won’t play (the obligatory) 15 though. I think that’s too difficult. He might play a couple more . . . and if they relax the rule, he might get up to 12 or 13, but he will not play 15.”

Chandler actually met with PGA Tour chief Tim Finchem during the US Open at Congressional and informed him that McIlroy and Lee Westwood would “probably” join if they didn’t have to play the end-of-season FedEx series. “It’s the FedEx that kills it, and they have a big season after the FedEx,” he said.

Of how be bounced back from his final round travails at Augusta, Chandler pointed to two factors as being important: one, that he went to play in Malaysia the week after the Masters and “that got him back on the bike”; and, two, that he went to Haiti in the week before playing in the US Open. It was McIlroy’s own idea to go to the earthquake stricken country. “If ever you needed putting things in perspective, to realise it’s only a game, you go to Haiti . . . so, I think those two things probably helped him,” claimed Chandler.

Prior to going out to play his final round on Sunday, McIlroy also got a couple of motivational messages from his fellow Northern players: one was a text message from Darren Clarke which told him to “show them how good you are!”; while McDowell’s note started out with the query, “what golf course are you playing this week? . . . keep it going.”

As McIlroy remarked, “I saw that note just as I was putting my golf shoes on to go out to the range. It meant a lot.”