McIlroy eager to be star of Egypt
Rory McIlroy is ready to put business before pleasure and sacrifice a dream visit to see the Pyramids in his quest to become the first Irishman to win the Egypt Open this week.
McIlroy arrived in Cairo yesterday ahead of tomorrow's $US250,000 event, which is being staged on the JW Marriott Mirage City Golf Club course in the Egyptian capital.
The tournament was first contested in 1921, but it's only become part of the Challenge Tour in recent years.
It's been five years since the then 16-year-old McIlroy played in his only other Challenge Tour event, when he finished 32nd in the 2005 Molson International Pro-Am Challenge at Worsley near Manchester.
But in stark contrast to last week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where Martin Kaymer was handed a €580,046 prize cheque, this week's penultimate event of the Challenge Tour season carries a first prize of just $40,000 (€29,000). McIlroy is by far the highest-ranked player competing in Egypt and, standing at No 9 in the world rankings, the young Ulsterman is 223 spots higher than the next best placed competitor, George Murray of Scotland.
"I would love to get to visit the Pyramids while I'm in Egypt, but I'm out there solely with the view to win," said McIlroy.
"I've never been out in that part of the world before so it's going to be exciting, and I also met with Egpytian Open officials and some juniors from Egypt at the (British) Open this year.
"It's also a good opportunity for me to pick up some world ranking points. If I win the Egypt Open it means I pick up 12 or 13, which is like finishing high up in a main European Tour event.
"I am going to have to play very well to win. I have the utmost respect for everyone else in the field and if I am going to win I will have to earn it. Even though it is a Challenge Tour event, you should never expect to win as everyone in the field will be looking to beat me.
"But I will be trying my best so there's no point in just pitching up and finishing middle of the field."
McIlroy is among three of the victorious European Ryder Cup team missing this week's Portugal Masters, opting instead to play further afield.
Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington, who was third in Portugal last year, and winning captain Colin Montgomerie are competing in the Asian Tour's Johor Open in Malaysia.
While in Malaysia, Harrington will inspect the location of his first signature-designed golf course at the site of a former palm oil plantation in Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, the season-ending Dubai World Championship looks set to suffer a blow with triple Major-winner Ernie Els likely to pull out of the November 25 event.
Despite capturing three Dubai Desert Classic titles, Els is no fan of the new Greg Norman-designed course at the Jumeirah Estate.
"I just don't know about Dubai and I don't know if I want to go there. It's just that I am not a fan of the golf course out there," said Els. "I love Dubai, and I've won the Desert Classic three times, but the golf course for the Dubai World Championship just doesn't suit my game.
"So at this stage, I'm not going to play, but then I will review what I'm going to do after the Shanghai event."
The twice European Tour Order of Merit No 1 is ranked fourth on the Race to Dubai money list and is just one spot behind Lee Westwood, who revealed on Sunday that he could be sidelined for the Dubai event.
Westwood continues to struggle with a calf injury and will rest at home in the hope of returning for the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai on November 4.
If not fully fit, Westwood said he would then wait for the Dubai World Championship, the event he won last year by six shots courtesy of a blistering final-round 64.