Rory McIlroy happy to be 'trending in the right direction' ahead of the Open Championship

Phil Casey 8/07/2018
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In positive mood: Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will head into the Open Championship in a positive frame of mind after completing his competitive preparations – and duties as tournament host – in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

McIlroy carded a final round of 71 at Ballyliffin to finish two under par, but saw signs of progress with his problematic putting with four birdies in six holes around the turn.

“There were improvements over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it on Thursday and I felt like I sort of kept it up. It maybe wasn’t quite as good the last three days, but I putted a lot better today. I felt a lot better about it so that was great.

“Sometimes when I get too square with my feet, my upper body can get a little bit left and every putt I was missing was to the left. The more I can be just a little bit open with my lower body, I can see it a little bit better. I’m right-eye dominant, as well. It’s easier to see it down the line if I’m a little more open.

“I feel like I’ve made some improvements over the last couple of days on that and at least I know I’m trending in the right direction heading into the Open Championship.”

McIlroy has spent the last four years as tournament host of the Irish Open, during which time it has become part of the lucrative Rolex Series and seen its prize fund rise to USD7million (£5.3million).

From next year that role will be rotated among the top Irish players, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley taking over in 2019 at Lahinch.

“It’s been an eye-opener to see how much goes into running a golf tournament and it’s been great for me, especially for the future,” McIlroy added.

“This probably isn’t going to be the last time that I’m involved in a golf tournament and it’s been great in terms of who we’ve been able to help and what we’ve achieved from a charitable standpoint.

“It’s been a great four years and I’m looking forward to going to Lahinch next year, maybe with not quite as much responsibility.”

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Erik van Rooyen takes commanding lead into final day of Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Phil Casey 7/07/2018
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Erik van Rooyen of South Africa has a four-shot lead at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will take a commanding lead into the final day of the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after a brilliant third round at Ballyliffin.

Van Rooyen began the day in a three-way tie for the lead, but stormed to the turn in just 29 shots on his way to a superb 66 to finish 14 under par, four shots ahead of New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren.

Former Masters champion Danny Willett is five shots off the pace after recovering from a poor start with the aid of four birdies in a row on the back nine, with Scotland’s Russell Knox a shot further back on eight under.

Van Rooyen, who is seeking a first European Tour title, made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth.

“The mindset was just keep going, I guess,” said the 28-year-old, who would be just the second South African winner of the Irish Open after Bobby Locke in 1938 if he can win on Sunday.

“I wasn’t very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a Golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that’s what happened.

“It wasn’t different on the back nine. I still played great. I wish I could have birdied the two par fives but looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day. There’s 18 holes left to navigate and that’s going to be my job tomorrow. Obviously I would love to get a win.”

Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.

A missed cut in last week’s French Open was his ninth in 12 events this season, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back from a front nine of 37 with four birdies in a row from the 11th and another on the 17th.

“There were a couple of poor swings early on but we dug in nicely,” Willett said. “We had a nice little run on the back nine where we holed a few good ones and turned it round pretty quickly.

“A couple of the long-range putts were obviously bonuses but it was nice to see them go in and keep the momentum going because when you saw the leaderboard after a few holes we were a helluva long way back.

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Bubba Watson wins Travelers Championship for third PGA Tour victory of the year

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Bubba Watson shot 63 in the final round to claim the Travelers Championship.

Bubba Watson shot a final round of 63 to win the Travelers Championship by three strokes.

The American Ryder Cup hopeful and two-time Masters Champion carded eight birdies and only one bogey to finish clear of a group of four players, including overnight leader Paul Casey.

The Englishman went into Sunday with a four-shot lead and an opening birdie strengthened his position further, but that was as good as it got as three bogeys saw him finish in a share of second with Americans Stewart Cink, JB Holmes and Beau Hossler.

Watson told Sky Sports Golf: “It was a fun round of golf and I got lucky that he (Casey) didn’t have his best stuff today.”

The left-hander’s third win of 2018 confirms his impressive form ahead of next month’s Open at Carnoustie and he also took the opportunity to send a message to his country’s Ryder Cup captain.

“I’m looking forward to (the Open) and I’m hoping Jim Furyk’s going to text and says, ‘You’re guaranteed for the Ryder Cup’ – still waiting on that text!” he said.

“It’s one of those years where you want it to keep going, you just don’t want it to end.”

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