OFFICIAL confirmation that Rory McIlroy will play the Dubai Desert Classic hardly raised a ripple of interest either in mainline or social media. McIlroy is, after all, a brand ambassador for the event's title sponsor, Omega.
et the fact that he's willing and feels perfectly able to play in a tournament which concludes on Sunday, February 1, less than 48 hours before McIlroy's case against his former management company goes to trial in The Commercial Court, offers fascinating insight into the strength of his psyche.
The witness box must be one of the most intimidating places on earth. Especially with tens of millions of euro at stake, as is the case with McIlroy's suit and the counter-claims pursued by his former agents.
Could it be any more lonely, however, than the first tee on Friday at the Ryder Cup? Or as mentally exacting as playing the final hole in advancing darkness late on Sunday evening at the US PGA with a Major title on the line, as McIlroy did at Valhalla last August?
The courtroom is far removed from McIlroy's natural habitat but one wonders if the lust he, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and golf's other elite performers plainly show for the smell of psychological cordite on the world stage sets them apart from the rest of us.
Ordinary mortals would be hugely distracted by the prospect of six weeks or more in the High Court but it'll probably be business-as-usual for McIlroy the week after next as he pursues a second Dubai Desert Classic victory on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Club.
As he suggested by winning the BMW PGA at Wentworth last May, days after sparking media conflagration by calling off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki, nothing intrudes on McIlroy's psyche on the golf course.
Should legal proceedings run their full course, that theory may be severely tested by several days of forensic cross-examination. One suspects, however, that McIlroy's prospects of completing his career Grand Slam at April's US Masters are unlikely to rest on the judge's verdict, whatever it may be.
McIlroy's 2015 campaign opens in earnest on Thursday when he tees it up in the first round of the HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Given his exemplary record around this demanding course, the Holywood star is a justifiable short-odds favourite.
Though he played fewest strokes in Abu Dhabi last year, McIlroy tied second with Phil Mickelson, one behind Pablo Larrazabal. A two-shot penalty on Saturday for failing to take free relief far enough away from a spectator crosswalk ultimately made all the difference. This was his third runner-up finish here in four years and fifth top-five since his first appearance in 2009. He's a whopping 80-under par for 26 rounds played.
McIlroy's solitary missed cut two years ago was blamed on teething troubles with new equipment, exacerbated by his failure to invest enough time bedding in those Nike clubs over the winter after his knockout climax to 2012.
It was interesting at Christmas to note US 'Rookie of the Year' Chesson Hadley's remark on Twitter: "gotta love golf to be practicing today (in 39 degrees fahrenheit). I bet Rory's grinding so I have to be as well."
In fact, McIlroy took a complete break, only resuming practice in Dubai eight days ago after spending the Festive Season at home in Ireland. "First couple of swings after four weeks without touching a club were interesting," he quipped.
Blessed with complete confidence in his equipment, it will come as no surprise if McIlroy, now completely refreshed, quickly recovers the form which saw him complete his final 10 events of 2014 in 109-under par.
After his spectacular hat-trick at The Open, Bridgestone and US PGA, McIlroy had five other top-10s, including second-place finishes at the Tour Championship, Dunhill Links and DP World Championship.
Taking into account the leadership role he assumed at September's Ryder Cup, McIlroy's ability to defy fatigue and grind out those impressive end-of-season results suggests he's now Tiger-tough and capable of overcoming any obstacle in his path.
Royal Co Down determined to roll out green carpet for Irish open
IRISH OPEN host Rory McIlroy can guarantee Rickie Fowler and any other US Tour stars who accept his invitation to Royal Co Down next May that the famous Newcastle links will be an absolute joy to play.
The club is going to unprecedented lengths to ensure the course will be pristine for the big occasion. Since October, for example, they've been playing off mats on the fairway, with an option to place the ball to the side.
It's a measure of the commitment shown by the club and its members that this will continue until May as every effort is made to show the course to the world at its spectacular best.
"I've never seen the fairways looking this good in January, while the greens are in beautiful shape and running pure," says GUI national coach Neil Manchip, who played there last weekend with Shane Lowry and fellow professionals Dara Lernihan and Reeve Whitson, son of Co Down pro Kevin.
"The course was in superb condition for the 2007 Walker Cup and I expect it'll be every bit as good in May," added Manchip, a Scot whose first job in Ireland was as an assistant to Kevin Whitson.