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In-form McIlroy chasing Links glory

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks in a press conference during practice prior to the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course on October 4, 2017 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland speaks in a press conference during practice prior to the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course on October 4, 2017 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy is looking forward to a positive end to his season as the Northern Irishman prepares to tee it up in the company of his father Gerry in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The four-time Major winner came close to capturing his first title of an injury-hit season when he finished second to Paul Dunne last week at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports.

Victory at the Old Course, St Andrews on Sunday would be the perfect to his 2017 campaign after a year which has held memorable moments away from the golf course, having married his wife Erica in April.

McIlroy spent his final practice round in the company of young Scottish player Connor Syme, who is hoping to continue his promising start to his professional career.

The 22 year old Kirkcaldy-native finished in tied 12th place in his first professional start at the Portugal Masters two weeks ago, and is relishing the opportunity to play across three of the finest links courses in the world in the Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, which also happen to be on his home turf.

Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood has had plenty to celebrate away from the golf course, arriving at St Andrews just a few days after the birth of his son, Franklin, but he admits his focus is now on finishing 2017 as the European Tour Number One.

Fellow Englishman and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton is hoping to replicate the magic created last year when he sealed the title with a course-record equalling round of 62. He has once again been paired with Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan at the tournament, which sees professionals and amateurs teaming up to take on all three courses over the week before the professionals battle it out at the Home of Golf on the final day.

Player quotes

Rory McIlroy: “I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time and hopefully I can end the year on a positive note, turn in a couple of good scores and give myself another chance to win. I gave myself a decent chance last week. So it’s just good to know that there’s good stuff in there.

“In a golfing sense it has not been the year that I wanted but a lot of great things have happened to me off the golf course, and 2017 will always be a year I remember because of that.

“There’s some things that are out of your control. I’ve tried my best to play well and persevere and play through an injury and it just hasn’t quite happened for me.

“I think this year has not been anywhere near as bad as the year I had in 2013, and I bounced back from that year pretty well the year after. Hopefully I can do the same next year I guess.

“Connor seems like he’s got a really good head on his shoulders at 22 years old. He seems very mature. Not fazed by anything at all. He’s got a nice game, solid swing and sort of does everything the right way. I don’t see any real weaknesses.”

Connor Syme: “It’s been a fun two weeks since Portugal and obviously getting the experience to play with Rory today, you can’t buy that experience. It was absolutely brilliant to have that opportunity.

“It’s obviously great to hear Rory talking highly about my game. It was great to play with him. It’s a great insight for me to see how he does it.

“All of these courses I’ve grown up playing. It’s nice to stay at home. You don’t get that very often playing pro golf, so it’s going to be a fun week.

“I can only hit the first shot at Carnoustie tomorrow, and that’s all I’m thinking about, really. If it becomes a good week, then brilliant, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Tyrell Hatton: “We had good fun last year. Having a bit of chemistry is what this event is about and you try and have a bit of a laugh. I feel that obviously helped me last year and I’m looking forward to doing that again.

“I was quite surprised to get the course record last year. It certainly depends on the conditions if anyone can better that. If the conditions are calm, then everyone’s got a chance to do it. But it’s not something I’ll go out there trying to beat.

“That was a really special round to me, the lowest round I ever shot. I’ll just take those good vibes out there tomorrow.”

Tommy Fleetwood: “Anybody that has been through it (having a child) will tell you it’s surreal and it’s amazing. It shouldn’t be beautiful but it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life. I think Clare was amazing, and I’ve loved it, I really have.

“This part of the year, it’s an important time to play massive events. We all know what’s on the line. I would love to win the Race to Dubai, absolutely love it. I can’t get away from it. I can’t say I won’t think about it. I’ll try to just go through my processes because that’s the goal now.

“The game is better than I expected it to be. I was practising a lot when I wasn’t playing, but from last week I really didn’t do anything. I was in the hospital for a week nearly.

“It feels like you haven’t played for a year when you come back. I was surprised how I hit it.”