Rory McIlroy is Enjoying Return to the Dunhill Links
Rory McIlroy is bringing down the curtain on his 2017 season this week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and he’s enjoying a long overdue return to the showpiece event at the Home of Golf that saw him secure his tour card as a fledgling professional a decade ago.
“The Dunhill has always been a great week. It's always been very enjoyable,” the 28-year-old said. “I've always seemed to play well here, probably because of sort of the relaxed atmosphere that there is. It's nice to go and play the different courses and get back at night.”
That unique element has always been an attraction to the lucrative championship played across the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, with the popular Northern Irishman being joined by his father Gerry for the pro-am segment of the tournament, and they are taking full advantage of some meaningful time together within the surroundings of such iconic venues.
“It's great to just spend time with him. My Mum's over and obviously my wife, Erica, so we've been able to spend a good bit of time together, go out for dinners and have a few drinks at night. It's been nice since we got here,” the four-time major champion added.
“Yeah, I love it for that; to be able to spend that quality time with him and with all of us as a family, it's really nice. Erica has never been here before. She was looking forward to coming here for The Open in 2015 and then I played a football match (causing injury) and that sort of was the end of that.
“It's been nice to be able to show Erica around. I've always loved St. Andrews. It's been one of my favourite parts of the world, and we have a restaurant we go to and our pubs we go into and it's been nice.”
Rory on 9 today: "That might be the longest putt I've ever holed". Could dad be a good luck charm this week? pic.twitter.com/694oM7WoYI— St Andrews Links (@TheHomeofGolf) October 4, 2017
There is certainly a different vibe to this event when compared to most stops on the schedule, and that environment makes this an appropriate week for McIlroy to conclude his campaign, which has been inconsistent and disjointed, much of that because of a troublesome rib injury that he is seeking to fully recover from over the coming months ahead of his competitive return in 2018.
“In a golfing sense it has not been the year that I wanted, but a lot of great things have happened to me off the golf course, and 2017 will always be a year I remember because of that. It hasn't been the year I wanted in terms of my career, but you're going to have years that don't quite go your way.”
“There's some things that are out of your control. I've tried my best to play well and persevere and play through an injury and it just hasn't quite happened for me. I think this year has not been anywhere near as bad as the year I had in 2013, and I bounced back from that year pretty well (winning two majors in 2014). Hopefully I can do the same next year I guess.”
Such perspective underlines the admirable balance that McIlroy has sought in his life. Combining the determination of leading a significant career in the spotlight with the calmness of a settled existence behind the scenes, he has fallen to sixth in the world rankings this year as the likes of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson have dominated the headlines, but the Ulsterman remains the most prolific major champion of this generation and possesses a sense of gravities to his game.
The Dunhill Links has provided fertile ground for Rory – starting with that crucial tie for third in 2007 – and he has since been a runner-up on three occasions. Despite being winless this year, a brilliant weekend charge at the British Masters was encouraging, but the former number one doesn’t feel obligated to secure a victory this week in the shadows of history.
“I gave myself a decent chance last week,” he reflected. “So, it's just good to know that there's good stuff in there. At the end of the day, the result, it isn't just dependent on me. I could play very well and shoot 20-under par this week and someone could shoot 22-under par; I could walk away from the week feeling very happy and feeling like I played well.
“Sometimes your best isn't quite good enough to get the win. A bit like last week. If someone had said to me you're going to shoot 17-under par this week, I would have bitten their hand off on Thursday morning thinking that's going to get the job done, and it didn't quite (do so).
“I'm not under pressure to win. The result, if you play well and things go your way, that takes care of itself. But it would just be nice to string a few more good rounds together and put in a (strong) performance and that would be a nice way to end the year.”
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