Rory McIlroy 'suffocated' by expectations
RORY McILROY played down the bout of hay fever which left him snuffling and red-eyed, but admitted that being 'smothered' with affection by the home crowd made it difficult for him to perform at the Irish Open.
So McIlroy (right) is determined to feed off the highly-charged atmosphere at Carton House and use it in his bid to tick off one of the biggest items on his wish-list.
Asked how he managed the expectations of so many of his countrymen in Irish Open week and not let that support suffocate him, the 24-year-old responded: "That's actually a good word.
"It's something I've felt in a couple of Irish Opens – suffocated. Having that burden and that pressure and that expectation," McIlroy explained. "You try to use it but it's hard.
"It's really much better having fans rooting for you and really wanting you to do well than people rooting against you, so it's a great privilege to have," he went on.
"The best thing I can do this week is go out and enjoy myself. Try to smile and play the best that I can and show everyone how much I appreciate their support.
"You don't get a chance to come back here very often and play, so it's nice to be able to do it," added McIlroy.
McIlroy made his debut as a 16-year-old amateur at the 2005 Irish Open in Carton, missing the cut. His best performance in five subsequent appearances at his home championship was a share of eighth place at Adare in 2008.
Far from being lifted by the festival atmosphere in Killarney in 2010 and 2011, he appeared downcast, though McIlroy had a certain spring in his step as he marched into 10th place in Portrush last June.
Explaining the pressure of trying to satisfy the crowd's intense desire for their own players to win, "It's like everyone lives every shot with you. If you make a birdie, there's a huge roar and if you miss a putt you can hear the disappointment in the crowd ... it's a great privilege, a great thing to have."
McIlroy will be followed by massive galleries on the Montgomerie Course this morning, especially as he'll be playing with his Carton House resident and local favourite Shane Lowry, who sensationally won the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur.
The Holywood native would dearly love to add his name to those of Clara champion Lowry and Dubliner Padraig Harrington on the Irish Open trophy.
"Winning in front of the people that support you the most would be nice," he said. "I'd be very disappointed if I finished my career and didn't win an Irish Open, put it that way."
Though frustration led McIlroy into controversy on Sunday at the US Open, when he petulantly threw one club and damaged another, he believes there is much to be salvaged from the current season.
"The biggest thing, there's two Majors left," he explained. "My Major record this year is much better than it was this time last year, though obviously still not very good. I guess my ambition is to get into contention here, at the (British) Open in Muirfield and the PGA at Oak Hill.
"I still can contend for the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup title. A lot of things are still possible. I guess the big thing for me is wanting to get into contention, week in, week out and just finding consistency in my game again."