Saturday 24 February 2018

McIlroy aims to end year on high with British Masters bid

“I am looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while,” McIlroy said. Photo: Getty Images
“I am looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while,” McIlroy said. Photo: Getty Images

James Corrigan

Rory McIlroy has handed the British Masters a huge boost by accepting an invitation to play in next week's tournament in Newcastle.

The four-time Major winner confirmed his intention to appear at Close House, following his failure to qualify for this week's Tour Championship in Atlanta. The PGA Tour's loss will be the European Tour's gain as the 28-year-old plays his final few events before a long break.

Lee Westwood is promoting the British Masters and said he is "thrilled" by his Ryder Cup team-mate's presence in a field also boasting Sergio Garcia. McIlroy has not featured in the British Masters since 2008 after it went off the schedule between 2009 and 2015.

His presence will inevitably see a marked increase in ticket sales, because, despite failing to win so far in 2017, McIlroy remains one of the biggest draws in the game.

"I am looking forward to playing my first British Masters for a while," McIlroy said.

"I kind of had it in the back of my mind that if I didn't make the (PGA) Tour Championship then there was a chance to tee it up at Close House, so I have decided to do that before finishing my season off the next week at the Dunhill Links. Teeing it up next week gives me one more chance to end 2017 on a high as well," said McIlroy.

"If I can sign off the year with a win or two in Newcastle and then St Andrews I would take so many positives into my six-week recovery period when I am going to reset mentally and physically and concentrate on getting myself in the right shape for next year."

McIlroy has already committed to the Dunhill Links Championship in Fife in two weeks' time. Adding the British Masters - which was revived three years ago because of the efforts of the Tour and Sky Sports - will allow him to reach the minimum of five events he requires as a member.

However, McIlroy will then skip the Race to Dubai run-in and take a break after the Dunhill. He has suffered with a rib injury all year and is determined to give it time to make a full recovery.

He is evidently in need of the break, both physically and mentally. Last year's FedEx champion could finish only 58th in Chicago on Sunday, when he needed a top-four finish to make it into the limited 30-man field that will contest the FedEx bonus. The latest setback caused him to fall to eighth in the world, his lowest ranking in more than three years.

McIlroy is not in Georgia, but Justin Rose is and he believes a win at the Tour Championship will be sufficient for him to collect £8.5  million, which would be the biggest-ever payout in English golf.

The 37-year-old has risen to eighth in the FedEx Cup courtesy of his second place behind Marc Leishman on Sunday, his best finish since losing to Sergio Garcia in the Masters play-off in April.

Only the top five in the FedEx standings are guaranteed to scoop the $10  million bonus if they win the East Lake tournament, but Rose thinks his first win of the year would be enough.

Realistic

"I feel good about being in eighth," Rose said. "I've given myself a realistic chance. The guys in the top five still have to have a really good week to beat you out. I won't be totally in control of my own destiny in Atlanta, but it's not far off."

Meanwhile, Seamus Power will aim to improve on his uneventful Albertsons Boise Open performance at the DAP Championship to be certain of his PGA Tour status next year.

The Waterford man remains on course to retain his card despite slipping to 19th in the Web.com Tour Finals money list after Sunday's final-round 72 in Idaho. The 30-year-old can win back his PGA status if he is one of the 25 players who earn the most cumulative money in the four Finals events.

Ahead of Thursday's third event his projected total winnings stand at $22,650 - $4,666 clear of the unlucky 26th position. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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