Wednesday 20 February 2019

'I play golf for myself, not to make others happy' - Rory McIlroy bats away question about playing under American flag

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot during yesterday’s Pro-Am at Torrey Pines ahead of making his seasonal debut at the Farmers Insurance Open. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot during yesterday’s Pro-Am at Torrey Pines ahead of making his seasonal debut at the Farmers Insurance Open. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy insists his final-group hoodoo is not getting into his head as he makes his debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

The Holywood star (29), who explained that he has yet to make up his mind about whether he will keep his European Tour membership this year, has come up empty-handed in his last seven appearances in final groups.

After ending the 2018 US season with a front-row seat for Tiger Woods' momentous comeback win in the Tour Championship at East Lake and starting 2019 by finishing tied fourth behind a red-hot Xander Schauffele in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, he's looking forward to putting a stop to the chatter.

"No, I am committed to the journey where that is not a conversation any more," he said at the cliff-top venue where Woods has won eight times, including the 2008 US Open.

"I've just got to keep putting myself in those positions. I am playing good enough golf to get myself there.

"But going in the final group and being three behind, you are not supposed to win from that position. Give it a shot, yeah, and at least have a chance on the back nine.

"So I have just got to keep putting myself in those positions. I have another opportunity to do that this week and I feel like my game's in good enough shape to do that.

"I am just on the journey of learning and getting to the point where I don't have to answer that question."

Now a US resident and married to an American, he is committed to a US-centric schedule which he believes will make it easier for him to perform.

He batted away a question about playing under the American flag, presumably in the event he takes out US citizenship.

"I play golf for myself," said the Co Down man, who tees off at 6.30pm Irish time, with Woods to follow suit 10 minutes later.

"I don't play for anyone else but me. It brings me happiness, it brings me joy and a by-product of that is that maybe it brings other people happiness as well."

He's made no secret that he's playing more on the PGA Tour because it offers him the best competition with 24 of the world's top 50 in action in a strong Torrey Pines field, compared to just 15 of the top 50 at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Asked if he was taken aback or disappointed by the backlash in Europe to his decision to play more in the US, he reiterated his determination to do what's best for him.

"I am not disappointed," he said.

"I have done the exact same thing for 11 years in a row. I have done everything that has been asked of me to be a member of that tour and I haven't made the decision this year if I am going to go that route or not again.

"I am happy with my decision and happy to be over here and playing. Anything that makes my life and performances better, I am going to do that."

He tees it up on the tougher South Course with Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott as Seamus Power goes off on the North Course hoping to end his streak of five missed cuts in a row.

World No 41 Shane Lowry is looking to build on his brilliant Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship victory in Dubai, where he missed the cut for the third time in four starts on his last appearance there in 2014.

"I suppose it's been a bit of a whirlwind couple of days," said Lowry, who is joined at Emirates Golf Club by Greystones' Paul Dunne.

"I'm obviously very happy to have won again. I really enjoyed the last couple days and I'm going to try and enjoy this week as much as I can."

Colin Montgomerie (55) is also in the field, and Europe's winning skipper from the 2010 Ryder Cup believes Pádraig Harrington is the perfect choice for the "tough job" of defending the trophy in the US next year.

"It's never easy playing away from home and on a course that will be set up for them, and he knows that," Montgomerie said. "But he's got a great bunch of lads, and the standard now, it's phenomenal."

Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Live, Sky Sports, 4.0am

Farmers Insurance Open

Live, Sky Sports, 4.15pm

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