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Preview: Dubai Duty Free Irish Open


Struggling McIlroy returns home at Irish Open

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) Backed by record galleries and buoyed by his stunning feats here as a 16-year-old rising star, Rory McIlroy heads into the Irish Open at Royal Portrush intent on reviving his stuttering season and winning his home tournament for the first time.

McIlroy has missed the cut in four of his last five tournaments and lost his No. 1 ranking to Luke Donald.

However, memories of an 11-under 61 on the links course in Antrim during the 2005 North of Ireland Championship are spurring McIlroy. If he makes the cut, he'll be performing before sellout crowds of 27,000 all four days of the tournament, a first for the European Tour.

``The last couple of years, I didn't really enjoy the tag of home favorite, I just didn't feel very comfortable with it,'' McIlroy said. ``This year I really want to embrace that.''

He'll be joined by fellow countrymen and major winners Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell when Northern Ireland hosts the Irish Open for the first time since 1953.

McDowell arrives after a second-place finish at the recent U.S. Open, while Clarke knows the course well after relocating to the area from London four years ago. He claims the move was a big factor behind his win at the British Open last year.

``It's almost got an Open feel, which is what I think the course deserves. It's just a very special place,'' said Clarke, who hasn't finished better than 20th at a tournament since his victory at Royal St. George's last July.

However, most eyes will be on the second-ranked McIlroy, the winner of the 2011 U.S. Open.

His consistent form from the start of 2012 deserted him, failing to make the weekend at his last event in Europe, the flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth and the U.S. Open in San Francisco.

``I've put 10 days of really good work in. My game feels good,'' said the 23-year-old McIlroy. ``It actually felt pretty good at the U.S. Open.

``I felt like it was starting to come around. In a way it couldn't be a better time to come back here and play Portrush. It brings back so many good memories, and you can feed off that, and that gives you some confidence.''

With the British Open less than a month away, the Irish Open gives players some timely experience of links golf. The forecast is for wind and rain, conditions Clarke usually relishes.

Two-time British Open champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland is also in the field, along with PGA Championship winners Rich Beem and Keegan Bradley.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.

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The Irish Open field
Warren AberyFelipe AguilarFredrik Andersson Hed
Matthew BaldwinRich BeemRichard Bland
Knut BorsheimGregory BourdyGary Boyd
Keegan BradleyEamonn BradyMarkus Brier
Rafael Cabrera-BelloMichael CampbellJorge Campillo
Alejandro CanizaresS.S.P. ChowrasiaDarren Clarke
George CoetzeeRobert ColesMichael Collins
Federico ColomboNicolas ColsaertsPaul Cutler
John DalyRhys DaviesCarlos Del Moral
Daniel DenisonRobert-Jan DerksenChris Devlin
Harry DiamondDavid DixonAndrew Dodt
Jamie DonaldsonBradley DredgeDavid Drysdale
Edouard DuboisAlan DunbarSimon Dyson
Johan EdforsJamie ElsonNiclas Fasth
Gonzalo Fernandez-CastanoKenneth FerrieDarren Fichardt
Richard FinchOliver FisherRoss Fisher
Tommy FleetwoodOscar FlorenMark Foster
Dylan FritteliLorenzo GagliStephen Gallacher
Jordi GarciaIgnacio GarridoRicardo Gonzalez
Estanislao GoyaBranden GraceRichard Green
Emiliano GrilloJulien GuerrierAlex Haindl
Padraig HarringtonBenjamin HebertPeter Hedblom
David HigginsMichael HoeyKeith Horne
David HorseyDavid HowellSam Hutsby
Mikko IlonenThongchai JaideeScott Jamieson
Andrew JohnstonMichael JonzonShiv Kapur
Niall KearneyJohn G. KellySimon Khan
James KingstonSoren KjeldsenJbe' Kruger
Maarten LafeberJoakim LagergrenJose Manuel Lara
Paul LawriePeter LawrieCraig Lee
Thomas LevetSam LittleShane Lowry
Joost LuitenMikael LundbergDavid Lynn
Matteo ManasseroAndrew MarshallPablo Martin
Gareth MaybinPatrick McCruddenGraeme McDowell
Dermot McElroyRichard McEvoyPaul McGinley
Damien McGraneRory McIlroyDaniel Miernicki
Francesco MolinariColin MontgomerieDamian Mooney
James MorrisonJamie MoulGarth Mulroy
Mark MurphyGeorge MurrayChristian Nilsson
Matthew NixonThomas NorretSteven O'Hara
Mark O'SullivanJose Maria OlazabalThorbjorn Olesen
Gary OrrHennie OttoAndrea Pavan
Phillip PriceRichie RamsayRobert Rock
Brett RumfordRicardo SantosReinier Saxton
Marcel SiemJeev Milkha SinghJoel Sjoholm
Lee SlatteryTim SluiterMatthew Southgate
Mark StauntonRichard SterneGraeme Storm
Andy SullivanSimon ThorntonBarrie Trainor
Jaco Van ZylTjaart Van der WaltAnthony Wall
Paul WaringMarc WarrenRomain Wattel
Steve WebsterPeter WhitefordDanny Willett
Chris WoodFabrizio ZanottiMatthew Zions
Strength of field
World RankPlayersNo. in Field
TOP 10Rory McIlroy (1)1
TOP 25Keegan Bradley (15),Graeme McDowell (24)2
TOP 50Paul Lawrie (27),Francesco Molinari (29),Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (33),Branden Grace (34),Nicolas Colsaerts (36),Matteo Manassero (43),David Lynn (45),Jamie Donaldson (47),George Coetzee (49),Thorbjorn Olesen (50)10
TOP 100Rafael Cabrera-Bello (53),Richie Ramsay (55),Shane Lowry (57),Padraig Harrington (59),Marcel Siem (62),Simon Dyson (69),Fredrik Andersson Hed (88),Jeev Milkha Singh (93),Danny Willett (94),Stephen Gallacher (95),Robert Rock (96),Ross Fisher (99),Thongchai Jaidee (100)13