|2018 Irish Open|
|Venue: Ballyliffin GC, Co Donegal Dates: 5-8 July|
|Coverage: Click here for details on daily BBC One NI and BBC Radio Ulster programmes from 4 July. Updates, reports and features on the BBC Sport website.|
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy says there is no “panic” despite not winning a major for four years.
McIlroy, 29, missed the cut at the US Open three weeks ago, which extended the gap since his last of his four majors at the 2014 US PGA.
“Nothing is going to change in my life whether I win a major or not,” said McIlroy on the eve of the Irish Open.
“I’d be disappointed if I didn’t but I don’t panic. It doesn’t keep me up at night.”
McIlroy had high hopes of completing the career Grand Slam as he started in the final group in this year’s Masters, only for his challenge to fizzle out as Patrick Reed clinched victory.
An opening round of 80 at the US Open then resulted in the former world number one missing the cut in the season’s second major at Shinnecock Hills as Brooks Koepka successfully defended the title.
“I was proud of myself just to get into the final group at the Masters. I didn’t have a good Sunday,” said McIlroy, who is ranked eighth in the world and will attempt to win his second Open Championship at Carnoustie in two weeks.
“The US Open was the US Open. I’ve got two more chances to win this year to hopefully play myself into contention.
“My goal this year, it wasn’t to win majors. It was just to give myself a chance and to put myself into positions to see how I fare.
“I did that at Augusta. I felt like I learned a bit from it and then hopefully going into Carnoustie and [the US PGA at] Bellerive, I can put myself in similar positions.”
McIlroy preparCarnoustie preparation
Former world number one McIlroy believes the hard and fast conditions that this year’s Irish Open will be played in at Ballyliffin in County Donegal will offer him and other Open Championship hopefuls – such as defending Irish Open champion Jon Rahm – ideal preparation for Carnoustie.
“Obviously it’s a great event in its own right but there’s elements to this golf course that if you can hit the shots here, you should be able to do it at Carnoustie as well,” McIlroy said.
“I haven’t played here in 12 years and I’d sort of forgotten how good it was and how beautiful the area was.
“It’s a tough track. You can’t put it in bunkers off the tee. You have to hit fairways. The greens are getting firm. It’s getting bouncy out there.”
McIlroy started his pre-tournament news conference by announcing that his own Rory Foundation, the European Tour, event sponsors Dubai Duty Free and Ballyliffin Golf Club have raised a combined donation of almost £90,000 for the local Donegal Hospice, in line with the tournament’s continuing policy of benefiting the local community.
After four years as tournament host, McIlroy will hand over to Paul McGinley in 2019 before the responsibility falls to major winners Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.
While McIlroy won at the parkland K Club in county Kildare in 2016, he missed the cut at Royal County Down in 2015 and Portstewart last year.
He says a combination of his increased responsibilities off the course, allied to “wanting it too much”, hindered his efforts at the Northern Ireland links venues, but he is optimistic he has prepared well for this week.
“I’ve cut back from a few things off the golf course,” he said. “There’s a been a couple of times when I just haven’t felt as prepared as I could have been walking on to the first tee on Thursday.
“I got here Monday morning, practised all Monday afternoon and was here yesterday at 8am. I’ve done my work so there’s no excuse.”