Rory McIlroy admits it’s been an ‘eye-opener’ but he now hands over the host reins to Paul McGinley of the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open rightly proud of elevating the event to unprecedented stature.
McIlroy began hosting the event in 2015 and in four years Ireland’s premier golfing event now possesses a positivity the envy of golfing tour’s around the globe.
And all thanks to McIlroy, his own Rory Foundation and the commitment and foresight of sponsors, Dubai Duty Free.
Of course, Ballyliffin rounds of 70, 73, 72 and 71 for a two-under par tally was not the effort McIlroy was seeking in Co. Donegal but from all other standpoints it’s been another overwhelming off-course all-Ireland triumph.
“It’s been an eye-opener to see how much goes into sort of running a golf tournament and being involved in a golf tournament,” he said.
“It’s been great for me, especially for the future. This probably isn’t going to be the last time that I’m involved in a golf tournament, but it’s been a great learning experience, and it’s been great in terms of who we’ve been able to help and what we’ve achieved, you know, from a charitable standpoint.”
“All in all, it’s been a great four years and I’m looking forward to going to Lahinch next year maybe with not quite as much responsibility, but I’m looking forward to getting down there. I haven’t been to Lahinch in a lot of years, so I’m looking forward to that.”
McIlroy’s closing Ballyliffin round was a mix of four birdies, including a hat-trick from the 11th but sandwiched in between a fifth hole double-bogey, that he played in four-over for the four days, and a 15th hole bogey.
“There were improvements in my game over the weekend, definitely today,” he said “I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it on Thursday, and I felt like I sort of kept it up. It maybe wasn’t quite as good the last three days, but I putted a lot better today. I felt a lot better about it.”
“So that was great. I’ve got a week to prepare now for The Open Championship and at least I know what to work on and hopefully I’ll turn up to Carnoustie better to go.”
McIlroy, who had long-time coach Michael Bannon on-hand all week at Ballyliffin, remarked a change in his putting set-up helped on day four. “Sometimes when I get too square with my feet, my upper body can get a little bit left and every putt I was missing was to the left,” he said.
“The more I can be just a little bit open with my lower body, I can see it a little bit better. I’m right eye dominant, as well. It’s easier to see it down the line if I’m a little more open. It was just an alignment issue and felt better today and felt like I could see the lines and I was starting the ball on a better line.”
“I ended my week holing some putts, which was good to see and good to take now to Carnoustie.”
After attending the prize-giving ceremony McIlroy was jetting-off to London for a mix of golfing and sponsorship commitments, including a TaylorMade photo shoot in the England capital with Tiger Woods.
“I’m heading to London tonight and playing in a pro/member thing with a friend tomorrow and going to hang around in London for a couple of days,” said McIlroy.
“I will then probably get back home and just prepare for The Open. That’s really it. Play some links golf, and probably head over to Carnoustie on Sunday.”
And there’s a strong rumour about that Woods could be teeing-up with US President Donald Trump next weekend at Trump Turnberry, where Trump has been reportedly headed on his visit to the UK.
Shane Lowry is joining McIlroy in taking a week off and like McIlroy, the Offaly golfer also left Ballyliffin short-changed having not broken 70 all week with scores of 72, 70, 74 and five birdies in a closing 70 to be tied with McIlroy on two-under.
“There were improvements over the weekend and definitely today,” said Lowry. “I’ve got a week off now. I’ve played a lot of golf over the last few months and I have a lot of golf over the next couple of months, as well. I really need a week off, I think.”
“I don’t think if I went and played in Scotland this week that I would be in the right frame of mind to play in The Open Championship so I will just try and relax as much as I can this week and get ready for next week”.