McIlroy feels the pressure at Irish Open

World number two, Rory McIlroy, not only has to deal with a bout of hay fever but also the overwhelming expectations of a home crowd as he seeks to captured a first ever Irish Open success.

McIlroy has again forgone competing in this week’s AT&T National at the Congressional Club in Maryland, and venue of his 2011 US Open success, to contest the Irish Open.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

McIlroy was aged just 16, and in the middle of a prolific winning amateur career, when he made his Irish Open debut in 2005 on the same Carton House course that hosts this week’s event.

And while McIlroy has since won two Majors and eight other events around the globe, he dearly would love to add a first Irish Open victory to his golfing CV.

“Life has changed a little bit since 2005, as I remember getting kicked out of bars after missing the cut on the Friday night because I wasn’t old enough to drink,” he smiled.

“But it’s good to be back to Carton House as my first Irish Open was here, and it’s just great to again be playing in an Irish Open.”

However McIlroy tees-up in the €2 million tournament as the overwhelming crowd favourite and with organisers expecting to better last year’s 106,000 attendance at Royal Portrush.

McIlroy admitted that the biggest hurdle he faces is not a first victory this season but dealing with the expectations of the crowd.

“I’ve felt suffocated a couple of times playing in an Irish Open and having that burden and that pressure and that expectation,” he said.

“The expectation and wanting to do so well is the biggest thing I will have to deal with because you’re playing in front of these people and these fans.

“I’ve tried to deal with it the last couple of years and just try to embrace the whole week and enjoy the attention and enjoy the spotlight that is on you this week.”

Organisers have grouped McIlroy with two former Irish Open winners for the opening round of the event in 2006 winner, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, winner in 2009.