Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McIlroy Insists His Game Can Only Get Better; GOLF

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

McIlroy Insists His Game Can Only Get Better; GOLF

Article excerpt

RORY McIlroy believes he is yet to hit top gear in pursuit of a first win of the year after setting up a weekend battle with Masters champion Danny Willett in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

McIlroy had missed the cut in his home event for the last three years but added a second round of 70 to his opening 67 at The K Club to finish just a shot behind Willett and Scotland's Marc Warren.

Warren surged through the field with a superb 66 to join Willett on eight under par, the world number nine carding five birdies and four bogeys in a 71 in his second tournament since claiming a maiden major title at Augusta.

McIlroy is the only member of the world's top five without a win in 2016 and admitted he was frustrated at what he felt was "negative spin" being put on his results, which include six top-10 finishes in 10 events.

The world number three, who has slipped more than four points behind number one Jason Day in the rankings after the Australian's seventh win in his last 17 events in the Players Championship, said: "I knew I was coming in here playing pretty well so I never thought the cut was going to be an issue.

"I'm excited to be up there with a chance to win.

"The Irish Open is one of the most important tournaments of my year and I'd dearly love to win it one day. I feel like I've given myself a great chance."

Asked if he could find another gear over the weekend, the tournament host added: "There's definitely more in there.

"Whether I get to show that could depend on the conditions but I just feel like there's something waiting there to click and when it doesI could be off and running and that could be the catapult or the momentum I need to have another great summer."

Willett beat the scoring average for the field by an incredible 8.9 shots with an opening 65 but struggled to reproduce that form despite again getting the best of the weather conditions.

The 28-year-old said. ""It wasn't bad, a little bit scrappy.

"It was windy at times and there were two sneakier flags out there as well so you can't come off being joint leader and be too unhappy."

Asked what he can go on to achieve in his career, Willett added: "I have no idea. …

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