McIlroy eyeing DP World hat-trick with guest caddie in tow

Bernie McGuire

Rory McIlroy & Niall O'Connor. Photo by Peter Staunton @TourMiss

Rory McIlroy knows it’s now mathematically impossible to win a third Race to Dubai but he’s going to have fun with stand-in caddy, Niall O’Connor when striving to capture a third DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

McIlroy is without regular caddy, Harry Diamond whose wife, Claire recently gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Georgia Iris.

“Erica and I are really pleased for Harry and Claire and I said to Harry there was no need to be here this week in Dubai, as it’s more important to be back home with your wife and young daughter,” said McIlroy.

McIlroy has been in Dubai since mid-last week practicing at the Trump International Dubai club, a club where he’s spent plenty of time since it opened in recent years.

The current World No. 2 arranged for former Ulster Rugby star and now New York-based, Niall O’Connor to carry the clubs for just this last week of McIlroy’s 12th season in the pro ranks.

O’Connor represented Ulster Rugby on 59 occasions from 2007 to 2013, and in his very first match he kicked four penalty goals in Ulster’s 17-16 win over Ospreys.

And he’s caddied for a McIlroy in the past having called the shots for Rory’s dad, Gerry, at last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.

McIlroy was walking up the 18th hole in a Monday 9-hole match at Jumeirah Golf Estates, host venue for this week season-ending DP World Tour Championship, against fellow Open Champion, Shane Lowry when asked how long had he known O’Connor.

“Hey Niall? How long have we known each other?” said McIlroy to O’Connor.

O’Connor, resplendently dressed top-to-toe in new Nike attire, said: “Probably about 12-years, I’d say.”

McIlroy added: “No, it’s good to have him on the bag this week. He’s been a good friend for a long time and with Harry back home with his wife and new baby daughter, it’s worked out well that Niall can caddy this week.”

It will be McIlroy’s 10th appearance in the Tour’s curtain-closing event since his Dubai debut in 2009, and in an event he won in 2012 and then again in 2015, while he’s been outside the top-10 just twice and that was an 11th place result in 2011 while a year ago he finished 20th.

McIlroy will tee-up knowing that at sixth on the Race to Dubai, having dropped a spot from fifth following last week’s Nedbank Challenge, he cannot capture the Race to Dubai title.

His incentive now will be to capture a third DP World Tour Championship and if so, a record-equalling fifth career win in a single season.

“Yeah I know I now can’t win the Race to Dubai but there’s still so much to play for in this last week of my season,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate to win five events a year twice in my career and that’s what the goal is this week.

“My really good record here at the DP World also is one of the reasons for bringing a good friend like Niall out here to caddy, as I know this Earth Course like the back of my hand.

“It’s really got that way that I do find the course easy, and I feel like I can play it blindfolded.

“Yes, it’s also a big week for me as I would dearly like to capture a third DP World and end my year winning the Tour Championship, the last event on the PGA Tour, by winning also the last event on the European Tour.

“So, in saying that while I can’t have Harry on the bag, it’s good to have someone I’ve known for so long on the bag in Niall.”

And for the record, McIlroy thumped Lowry over their back-9 hole encounter winning four of the nine holes with birdies (10th, 13th, 14th and 16th) and the 11th, or second hole of their match, with a par to Lowry’s bogey.

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