(Reuters) - World number two Rory McIlroy believes he has made progress following a disappointing U.S. Open and can overcome a slump in form when the Irish Open begins on Thursday at Royal Portrush.
McIlroy has missed the cut on four out of his last five outings and there would be no better stage on which to reverse his fortunes than in front of his home fans in Northern Ireland.
He has fond memories of the renowned old links course where he shot a record 11-under 61 during the 2005 North of Ireland Championship as a 16-year-old.
“I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress and I’m really looking forward to this week and hopefully giving myself a chance to win here,” McIlory told Sky Sports on Tuesday.
“I’m feeling good and had some really good practice over the last 10 days and my game feels in really good shape.”
McIlroy’s appearance along with Graeme McDowell, British Open winner Darren Clarke and triple major champion Padraig Harrington, has spectators at fever pitch.
A capacity crowd of 100,000 is expected to walk the fairways over four days of competition, the first sellout for a regular European Tour event.
Fans eager to get a glimpse of some of the world’s elite golfers flocked to Tuesday’s practice and up to 500 spectators followed McIlroy as he went through his paces.
“(Tuesday’s turnout) wouldn’t be normal on a European tour, a major you would expect it but it’s fantastic to see so many people out here,” said McIlroy.
Writing by Mark Pangallo; Editing by John Mehaffey