Monday 11 December 2017

McIlroy needs a flying start in BMW event

McIlroy bids to survive as reigning FedEx Cup title holder at the BMW Championship in Conway Farms, Illinois. Photo: PA
McIlroy bids to survive as reigning FedEx Cup title holder at the BMW Championship in Conway Farms, Illinois. Photo: PA
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

A small army of Irishmen, ranging from four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy to professional debutant Conor O'Rourke of Naas tee off in Tour action today.

McIlroy bids to survive as reigning FedEx Cup title holder at the BMW Championship in Conway Farms, Illinois; Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne compete at the KLM Open in Holland; and O'Rourke is one of 23 home players - 20 professionals and three amateurs - who play in the Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa & Golf Resort in Carlow.

The link between them all is the Golfing Union of Ireland, from whose ranks each of them emerged to make their mark at competitive level.

Rory McIlroy is the man that the fledgling professionals want to emulate. The 29-year-old from Holywood has inspired the younger cohort of GUI golfers for his feats in the last ten years.

Today he looks to make a flying start in the BMW Championship, the third of the four FedEx Cup Final Series events.

At 51st in the rankings, last year's champion knows he must finish fourth or better at Conway Farms if he is to break into the top 30 who contest the Tour Championship at East Lake GC next week.

That's a tall order for McIlroy.

The 70 players who have made it through to the BMW event represents the top echelon on the PGA Tour, including world number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson; the US PGA winner Justin Thomas; Open champion and FedEx Cup rankings leader Jordan Spieth; US Open title holder Brooks Koepka; and the Masters champion, Sergio Garcia.

McIlroy's motivation needs to improve after his missed cut in the Dell Technologies event in Boston, when he said: "I'm sort of waiting for the season to end, and that's reflected in the way I'm playing."

Meanwhile, Harrington is back after a three-week break to play the KLM Open at The Dutch in Spijk, Holland. Strong winds are expected throughout the four days and Harrington said: "Last time I played in these kind of winds was the Scottish Open where I got blown off the course on the Saturday.

"Hopefully I can survive a bit better this week as we are due to get a lot of wind, so it's going to be a battle.

"Obviously I'm well equipped to handle that battle, but you need to get the little breaks here and there to help you handle conditions like that."

At home, Gavin Moynihan, the leading Irish player on the Challenge Tour's Road to Oman rankings, hopes for a strong performance in the Irish Challenge at Mount Wolseley.

Moynihan is currently 27th in the rankings, and the top 15 at the end of the season get their full European cards.

He also celebrates his 23rd birthday on Sunday, the final day of the tournament, and would love to make it very special with a victory.

"Winning is the aim. You're obviously trying to finish as high as you can every week, but with not too many events left it's even more important to get the good results, so if I could win this week it would be great," he said.

The final Major of the LET and LPGA Tour season, the Evian Championship, starts today at Evian-les-Bains, in France. No Irish have qualified.

BMW Championship

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 8.0pm.

KLM Open

Live, SS Golf (Red Button) 10.30am

Evian Championship

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 10.10am

Irish Independent

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