Former winners Rory McIlroy and John Catlin among Dubai Duty Free Irish Open field

Rory McIlroy playing a practice round ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet Golf Club. Credit: Warren Little/Getty Images.

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Rory McIlroy is relishing the opportunity to play in front of his home fans for the first time in two years as the four-time Major winner tees it up in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet Estate this week.

“It’s looking fabulous,” admitted McIlroy, “Wonderful weather. Great golf course. It’s great. I’ve never played here before. I’ve been here to watch when the World Golf Championships were here in 2002 and 2004; we came down to watch, but a little different playing it. And, yeah, obviously the vantage point is a little different, as well.”

Previous Irish Open host

For four consecutive seasons from 2015, the Irishman put his name to his home open as the tournament host and was credited with helping revive the event’s fortunes to reclaim its status as one of the most eagerly-awaited fixtures on the Irish sporting calendar.

The 32-year-old, who claimed the famous trophy in 2016, is relishing the opportunity to be welcomed home by the Irish spectators at the sold-out event – which is one of a select number of pilot test events as crowds return to live sport in Ireland.

McIlroy, whose last appearance on home soil came at The 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush, will play alongside his fellow 2018 Ryder Cup winner Tommy Fleetwood and John Catlin – who defends his title having added his name to the prestigious list of winners at Galgorm Castle Golf Club last September.

McIlroy “encouraged” by recent performance

Speaking about his recent US Open performance the US-based Irish golfer said:

“I was very encouraged walking away from Torrey Pines, to have a share of the lead on the final day through a few holes. I gave myself a good chance. Looking back, the one thing that I kicked myself about, it wasn’t the double on 12, you’re going to get some bad breaks and I got a bad break but it was the three-putt on 11 that stopped the momentum.

“I made a really good putt for par on ten and then probably hit my best shot of the day into 11. Great 5-iron into the middle of the green. And then, you know, that three-putt was just pretty sloppy, and that killed the momentum to go on from there. But I thought the week was a real positive on whole and I’m looking forward to these next three weeks.”

John Gatlin set to defend title

Last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open winner John Catlin is relishing the chance to defend his title:

“I’m very excited to defend, this is my first opportunity to defend my win,” the American said. “Even on the Asian Tour I didn’t have an opportunity to defend any of my wins so I’m really excited, a lot of the memories from last year coming back – different golf course but I’m definitely drawing on some of those shots I hit down the stretch and the confidence that gives me.

Commenting on his own game right night, Catlin stated:

“The game is pretty good. I’ve been putting in some good work when I was at home, with Noah my coach, just tightening some things up. I’m always trying to get a little better that I was before and I feel like I was close last week, I just couldn’t quite figure out the greens. I’m missing too many short putts and I missed the cut by a couple but that happens to everybody and I’m looking forward to this week.”

Round One tee-off times here.

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