Rory McIlroy is California dreaming of fast start to PGA Tour season
Rory McIlroy returns to action on the PGA Tour today for the first time since finishing tied-16 in the Tour Championship in Atlanta and declaring 2015 a year to forget as he did not win a Major title.
Strictly speaking, McIlroy begins a new chapter today in the Frys.com Open at Napa, California, the first event of the American Tour's 2015-16 campaign.
In terms of a calendar year, he is only a few months past the ankle ligament rupture which caused him to miss the British Open, and which curtailed his bid for the US PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup series.
The world No 3 travelled the States on Tuesday and will hope to shake off jet lag as he prepares to tee it up alongside Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker at 7.50am local time (3.50pm Irish).
Following the Frys.com Open, he will take a break until returning to play the €7 million Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour from October 29-November 1.
McIlroy could be forgiven if he gets a bit confused. The PGA Tour opens this week, but when he gets back to the European Tour, the challenge is to round off this year on a high note by defending the Race to Dubai title he won in 2014.
The tournament in Turkey in two weeks' time signals the start of the 'Final Series' which climaxes with the €8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai from November 19-22.
Meanwhile, the Oceanico Victoria course in Vilamoura hosts the €2 million Portugal Masters today in which seven Irish players all have plenty of incentive to perform well.
Major winners Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington are looking for a spark to ignite a challenge at the top end of the leaderboard.
Michael Hoey could do with a strong finish to push on towards the top 60 who get to play in Dubai. Currently, the Northern Irish golfer sits in 85th place.
Damien McGrane is 168th in the rankings from 29 outings in a disappointing season, while Peter Lawrie (123) and Kevin Phelan (126) would love to hit pay dirt this week and break into the top 110 who automatically get Tour cards for next season.
Paul Dunne plays only his third tournament as a professional. He will look to bank a nice cheque and benefit from further exposure to the requirements of the pro game.
Mount Juliet touring pro Phelan had an anxious wait before finally getting the all-clear to play in the event.
He was on the reserve list early in the week before a couple of withdrawals got him into the field.
Phelan had played seven weeks in a row, missing five cuts, before taking a rest last week.
"It's a bit of a challenge to stay positive, but I'm hitting a lot of good shots and the putting's good. I just have to stay positive and patient," said Phelan.
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