2016 Irish Open champion Rory McIlroy admits there is nothing he can blame if he fails to perform at Ballyliffin Golf Club this week.
Despite being a Northern Irishman by birth, McIlroy – whose foundation hosts the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open – considers this a home test and has pulled out all the stops to ensure a successful week.
“I’ve done my work, so there’s no excuse about not being prepared. I’ve learned that as I went along,” he confessed.
“I felt I was underprepared at County Down (2015). I felt okay at The K Club (2016) I guess. I’ve learnt as I went along and I feel this year, I’m right where I need to be.
“There’s been a couple of times where I just haven’t felt as prepared as I could have been walking on to the first tee on Thursday.
“So [this week I] got here Monday morning, practiced all Monday afternoon. And was here yesterday at 08:00.”
McIlroy was full of praise for the course and area he has not visited since 2006, where aged 17 he beat the six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo in an exhibition, but is wary of the challenge it will pose on its debut Irish Open run.
He said: “I haven’t played here in 12 years, I’d forgotten how good it was and how beautiful the area is.
“It’s a great golf course. Pat Ruddy designed it, and he designed The European Club down in Wicklow as well, and I’m a big fan of it.
“It’s a tough track. You can’t put it in the bunkers off the tee; they’re really penal.
“You have to hit fairways. The greens are getting firm. It’s getting bouncy out there. It’s going to be a really good test this week.”
McIlroy took a week’s rest after a tied eighth at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago and will be raring to improve on his remarkably turbulent Irish Open record of just one win, two top 10s and five missed cuts in 11 starts.
He tees off alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thorbjørn Olesen at 13:20 local time on Thursday.