Wednesday, 17 November 2010:
He may be 6000 miles from his native Holywood, Northern Ireland, but Rory McIlroy couldn’t feel more at home at this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open.
Speaking after his Wednesday Pro-Am at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the 21 year old star, who has finished second for the past two years at Fanling, was quick to point out that his fondness for events such as the UBS Hong Kong Open is one of the main reasons that he has decided to hand back his US PGA Tour card for 2011.
McIlroy acknowledges that his time on the PGA Tour last year, during which he spectacularly won the Quail Hollow Championship, was an invaluable voyage of self discovery, but he has decided to concentrate more on The European Tour, where a combination of diversity of events coupled with the camaraderie between players, caddies and officials make him feel far happier with his lot.
“I found out a lot about myself in America last year,” said McIlroy. “I found out that the places that you like to go to has a lot to do with (being happy). There is no point playing a tournament that you don’t want to be at.
“I am trying to pick and choose events where I am happy in the places I am, that I want to be there and want to give it a go.
“This week is a good example – it is one of my favourite events of the season. UBS have been sponsoring it now for a while, and they put on a great show. They look after us really well.
“It’s a very social week with the business part being the golf but outside of that I think all the players have a great time here.”
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter couldn’t agree more. “Great place, great restaurants, great shopping. Hong Kong is a fun place to come, said the Englishman before adding, “It’s on the Asian Swing for me and it’s a good golf course that I’ve always played well.
“That to me is my first point; is it a good golf course? Yes. Have I played well there? Yes. When you add a city like Hong Kong to that equation it’s hard to beat.”
McIlroy has come agonisingly close to winning the UBS Hong Kong Open over the past two years, missing out to Lin Wen-tang after a play-off in 2008 and then Grégory Bourdy in 2009, but he is confident history will not repeat itself this week.
“I’ve come close the last couple of years and I was in a great play-off in 2008 and then Grégory played very very well to win last year,” he said.
“I love the golf course and I love Hong Kong and I love coming back here. I know the golf course well and I feel I’ve got a good idea of what I need to this week to try and get that win here.”
McIlroy also arrived in Hong Kong last year second to Lee Westwood in the Race to Dubai while this time it is compatriot and close friend Graeme McDowell who heads to the Fanling Golf Club chasing Martin Kaymer at the top of the European Tour money list.
Victory for McDowell in Hong Kong would not be enough for him to supplant Kaymer but would no doubt give him a psychological boost for the Dubai World Championship.
And McIlroy believes McDowell is in the perfect position to have a shot at winning the Race to Dubai.
“I was chasing Lee (Westwood) here this time last year and I finished second and went above him,” he said. “It was nearly a bad thing though because when you are chasing, more than likely all you think about is trying to win tournaments.
“Graeme has been playing great, Martin has as well, but I think Graeme has got the edge a little bit. He is finishing strong and hopefully he can go and do it.”
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