• Has attracted a fine field - Includes Fowler, Kaymer & Garcia
• Bradley Neil playing alongside pros for first time since Augusta
All eyes will be on Rory McIlroy tomorrow as the world No.1 gets his quest for Dubai Duty Free Irish Open glory underway – an event he’s referred to as a ‘fifth major’.
The 26-year-old – whose foundation is hosting his home tournament – has assembled a stellar field with the likes of Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ernie Els all battling it out over Royal County Down GC, which is renowned for being one of the finest courses on the planet.
McIlroy showed signs of weariness at the BMW PGA Championship last week as a second round 78 resulted in him missing the cut, a consequence of playing five events in as many weeks across both tours, with that coming to an end this week in Northern Ireland.
"I haven’t been as excited for a golf tournament this year, apart from the Masters for obvious reasons" - Rory McIlroy
But speaking earlier this week, the four-time major appeared refreshed and admitted he couldn’t wait to get started.
“I’m so excited for this tournament,” McIlroy told the European Tour. “Now that I’m involved with my foundation hosting the event, and with the title sponsors Dubai Duty Free and all the players coming to play Royal County Down, it’s going to be a great week and I just hope I can put on a good performance for all the fans back home.
“I haven’t been as excited for a golf tournament this year, apart from the Masters for obvious reasons.”
Another man who is relishing the prospect of tackling Royal County Down GC is current British Amateur champion Bradley Neil, who was invited to the tournament by McIlroy after the pair struck up a friendship at the Masters last month.
The 19-year-old won the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush last June and, after missing the cut at Augusta in his last outing with the pros, will be hoping for another strong showing on Irish soil.
Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ, Neil, who is one of four amateurs in the field, said: “I got my invite from Rory and it makes it all the more special that he is here. He has been able to attract all the big names to Northern Ireland this week, so it makes it more special for me and all the other amateurs who are playing in it.
"I am thrilled to be here and excited to get out on the course" - Bradley Neil
“Whenever I have been in Ireland I have yet to play a bad golf course and this one is ranked right up there. I played at Portrush last year and this course looks just as beautiful. Obviously I am thrilled to be here and excited to get out on the course and see what everyone is raving about.”
Three spaces for the 144th Open Championship are also up for grabs this week, with Luke Donald, Francesco Molinari and Kiradech Aphibarnrat the biggest names teeing it up at the Irish Open who have yet to secure their spots at St Andrews.
Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open :: Will he win?
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