Rory McIlroy aims to enjoy burden of expectation at Irish Open

Rory McIlroy has vivid memories of the first time he appeared at an Irish Open at Carton House in Maynooth, as a 16-year-old amateur in 2005.

"Life has changed a little bit," he said with a smile on Wednesday. "I remember getting kicked out of bars on the Friday night after missing the cut, because I wasn't old enough to drink."

He even recalls his scores, 71 and 81, with the first of them earning him just a glimpse of what the golfing limelight was like. "I walked into my hotel room last night and it is huge, ridiculous," the Northern Irishman said. "A bit different to eight years ago."

McIlroy's claim that his circumstances have altered merely "a little bit" during the intervening years was, of course, deliberate understatement. With a rise to the summit of world golf comes intensity, of an ilk he hasn't often enjoyed when on home soil.

"That's something I have felt in a couple of Irish Opens, suffocated; having that burden, that pressure, that expectation," McIlroy explained. "It's hard. It's much better having fans really wanting you to do well than people rooting against you, so it's a great privilege to have. The best thing that I can do this week is go out and enjoy myself, smile, and try and play the best that I can and show everyone how much I appreciate their support."

It is a recurring theme with McIlroy that his biggest challenges arise when handling the scrutiny attached to what he has become; a global superstar. "It's great that you have all this attention. It's what you dream of being when you're a kid and you're making putts to win the Open when you're six years old on the local putting green. It's what you want to do; it's what you want to be.

"Of course, you never really think of all this stuff that goes on outside the golf but it's a dream to be doing what I'm doing. And when I'm doing it, I might as well enjoy it."

McIlroy's appearance at Wimbledon earlier this week ultimately did little for the form of his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, who suffered a second-round straight-sets defeat on Wednesday afternoon. But McIlroy said that being around the tennis scene has been of benefit to him.

"It gets me away from my normal environment and I feel like I can go and blend into the background a little bit and not be the centre of attention, which is a nice thing," he said.

There is the recurring insistence, too, that he suffers from no off-course distraction. "I'm very happy with my life, I'm very happy with everything," said the 24-year-old. "Right now, I wouldn't want it any other way."

Still, McIlroy expressed regret over the incidents at the recent US Open which saw him firstly throw and subsequently bend two of his clubs out of frustration during the fourth round.

"Taking it out on your golf clubs probably isn't the right way to do it," said the world No2. "Of course everybody is going to get frustrated or angry or disappointed at a bad shot and obviously I'm no different.

"But it doesn't really set a good example for people watching me and maybe trying to emulate what I'm doing. It definitely wasn't the right thing to do. I wouldn't recommend anyone watching on television or any kids to start throwing their clubs or bending their nine-irons. But the nine-iron is intact and got a new shaft this week and it's ready to go."

Powered by article was written by Ewan Murray at Carton House, for on Wednesday 26th June 2013 23.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Ed McDonald