FRESH from being crowned The Race to Dubai champion, Rory McIlroy will now seek to enhance an already superb record at the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Before heading to the Hong Kong Golf Club, one of his favourite venues in the world, McIlroy finished in third place in Singapore last week to gain an unassailable lead at the top of The Race to Dubai.
In recent seasons, the UBS Hong Kong Open has become synonymous with the World Number One, who won the US$2million tournament last year, finished runner-up in 2008 and 2009, and tied sixth in 2010.
Twelve months ago, the 23 year old from Holywood closed out victory by two shots from Frenchman Grégory Havret by holing his bunker shot on the final green.
Rory said: “I’ve always just really enjoyed the golf course and the city. I was involved in probably one of the best play-offs ever [with Lin Wen-tang] in 2008, then finally managed to win it last year.
“The bunker shot on the last was obviously a great way to finish it off, and when I look back on my career I’m sure that’s one of the shots I’ll always remember.
“I already had some great memories of Hong Kong, but that one topped the lot.”
Over the past four editions of Hong Kong’s national Open, which joined The European Tour International Schedule in 2002, McIlroy’s scoring average is an astonishing 66.1 strokes.
Having effectively sealed The Race to Dubai title with a lengthy eagle putt on the final hole last week, McIlroy will now attempt to create more headlines – and history – on his return to Fanling.
McIlroy added; “Ever since I first played in 2007, the Hong Kong Open was a tournament I’ve always wanted to win, so to get my name on that trophy last year was a very special moment for me.
“I really love the layout there. The trees frame the holes really well, there’s a lot of definition on the course and it makes it easy to visualise the shots I want to hit.
“I love tree-lined courses and Hong Kong is definitely one of my favourites anywhere in the world.
“When you’ve played well and won on a course in the past, you’re always looking forward to going back and there will definitely be an added spring in my step this week, especially now that I’ve won The Race to Dubai.”
McIlroy will be joined at Fanling by six fellow Major Champions: Michael Campbell, John Daly, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, José María Olazábal and Y E Yang.
An ear infection has forced Michael Hoey out of the event but other Irish interest comes in the shape of Peter Lawrie and Niall Turner.
Graeme McDowell is not playing on the European Tour this week but is in Melbourne competing in the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath GC.
The 33-year-old caught his right hand in a door a fortnight ago during the HSBC tournament in China but has been passed fit to play on his first visit to Australia since 2004.
Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin is playing in the South Africa Open Championship at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate.