Rory McIlroy may be entering this week’s BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni as the favourite but the World Number Two is taking nothing for granted at Glendower Golf Club.
The Northern Irishman is a notoriously fast starter to the calendar year and, barring a missed cut in 2013, has been in the top five in each of his openers after the Christmas break for the last eight years.
But with defending champion Brandon Stone coming in off a victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and a high-class field including South African legends Retief Goosen and tournament host Ernie Els assembled in Gauteng, McIlroy knows he faces a tough test.
“There are a lot of good players this week,” said McIlroy. “Brandon Stone and Andy Sullivan obviously have a bit of form round here and then you just never rule out guys like Ernie (Els) and Retief (Goosen).
“I know that if I play the way I can then I will have a good chance to win but I need to make sure I concentrate on getting myself into that position on Sunday afternoon. I was one shot out of the play-off in 2008 (as part of the 2009 European Tour season) – that result actually got me into the top 50 in the world for the first time which was great, but it would be nice to go a couple better this week.
“This is the first time I have been here in a while and it seems like there’s a lot of excitement around the tournament. I played Glendower for the first time this morning and think it’s a really good golf course. I know that if I play the way I can then I will have a good chance to win.”
McIlroy enters his first tournament of the campaign off the back of four days on safari and with new equipment in the bag, you could be forgiven for thinking that he is coming in a little rusty.
But the 27 year old is fully focused on putting an early mark in the win column and insists he is well and truly out of holiday mode.
“I have been practising in the Middle East for the past week or so although I have spent the last few days here on safari so hadn’t hit a ball for four days,” he said. “The first couple of holes weren’t great in the pro-am today but once I got into my rhythm it was okay.
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