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Rory's case for defence

THE pressure is off Rory McIlroy on the European Tour money list. He's topped it with two tournaments to go, two tournaments he'd love to own to cap off a stellar year.

Having claimed the money title on Sunday at the Singapore Open, where he was third, McIlroy says he can relax a little.

Until tomorrow, when he begins his defence of the Hong Kong Open.

"It's nice not having to worry about the Race to Dubai title knowing that I've already wrapped it up," McIlroy said.

"Matteo (Manassero) did me a big favour on Sunday winning the play-off in Singapore so I owe him for that. So, to be able to come here and really only have to play half decent is a nice feeling, but then I want to end the year with another victory."

McIlroy joined Luke Donald as the only players to win the money titles on the European and US PGA Tours. He's the youngest to top Europe's money list in 32 years, and more accolades are expected. McIlroy has been shortlisted for player of the year on the US tour, and it's virtually inevitable in Europe.

"It's very nice to win the money list title on both main tours and while it's been nice to emulate what Luke Donald did last year and nice to be able to pick up all these end-of-year awards, I just want to keep improving," he said.

"I just want to become a better golfer and win more tournaments, and with that more major championship titles will come."

This is his sixth visit to Hong Kong Golf Club -- the first time was in the Faldo Junior Series in 2006. He was runner-up in the Open in 2008 and 2009, and holed out from a greenside bunker on the final hole last year to win by two strokes.

"Hong Kong has always been a place I've enjoyed coming to," said McIlroy. "It's always got a great buzz, a great atmosphere, and there is just something about Fanling and the Hong Kong Golf Club that I really enjoy.

Tee up

"This week will be extra special after wrapping up the Race to Dubai last week and I can't wait to tee up as the defending champion this week."

Like his fellow Irishman, Pádraig Harrington has also enjoyed success at Hong Kong Golf Club, winning at Fanling in 2003 and finishing runner-up one year later.

"Hong Kong is one of the best venues of the year," said the three-time major champion.

"It stands out as a great golf course for me, but I think everybody here this week loves the course.

"Sometimes you go to a place and the course might not suit half the field. This week everybody loves the course."

The tour finale in Dubai is next week.