Rory McIlroy looks forward to final start of 2019 in Dubai with new caddie
Former rugby star Niall O'Connor steps in to caddie for McIlroy at DP World Tour Championship.
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 20/11/19 3:08pm
Rory McIlroy has played down the impact of a temporary change of caddie as he prepares for his final appearance of 2019 this week in Dubai.
McIlroy is looking forward to taking an extended break from competitive golf after the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship - his first start since winning his fourth tournament of the year in Shanghai.
The 30-year-old insists he is not frustrated at not being a contender for the Race to Dubai, a title he has won three times in his career, and he remains motivated to win the season finale for the third time and maintain his push to regain the world No 1 ranking from Brooks Koepka.
McIlroy's regular caddie, Harry Diamond, is not in Dubai having just become a father for the first time, and the world No 2 has turned to former Ulster rugby union star Niall O'Connor to carry his bag this week.
"I guess it's good, if there's any week where I don't have Harry on the bag, it's good it's this week," said McIlroy. "I feel like I could play this place blindfolded. I've been coming back here for 10 years, so I know the place like the back of my hand.
"Niall is here, and it's going to be a fun week for us to get out there and hopefully I can play well and get into the heat of battle hopefully on the weekend. That will be something that will be fun for both of us.
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"Obviously I'll maybe take on a little bit more responsibility than I usually do and jot stuff down. It feels a little bit like when Harry first came on the bag a couple years ago, right. I took on a little more responsibility writing stuff in my yardage book and pacing stuff out. I actually quite enjoy that part, as well.
"But Niall and I go back a long way, so for me at this point it's just about trying to stay as relaxed and as loose as possible out there and he can definitely do that for me.
"I've had a nice couple weeks off after the Asian trip, and I feel okay and looking forward to a couple of months off to be honest. But it's one last event, one final push. I'm back in Dubai at a place and course I have a lot of good memories at.
"I've played well this year, and four wins have been great. It would be great to put myself in position to try to win a fifth and, the way I've been playing over the last few months, if I just go out and do my thing, hopefully I give myself another chance and finish the season off on a high note."
Bernd Wiesberger leads the Race to Dubai standings with McIlroy a distant sixth, although the three-time European No 1 has played in only 12 counting events this season - 16 fewer than the Austrian.
"I've won it three times, and it's a wonderful feeling to be able to do it, but I just haven't played enough European Tour events to have a chance," added McIlroy, who admitted he is unlikely to change his schedule next year to accommodate more events in Europe.
"You look at someone like a Bernd Wiesberger that's played 28 times, whatever it is. You know, those are the guys that deserve to be up there with a chance to win.
"I think this year has been a great learning year for me in terms of knowing what works. I feel like I changed my schedule up a good bit this year, and it helped, not travelling quite as much at the start of the year.
"Basing myself in Florida where I now live for the majority of the time and not having to travel too far from there, that definitely helps for the first few months of the year feeling settled, not crossing too many time zones.
"So why would I change next year? I've had a wonderful season this season and I feel like I've figured out a few things that really helped me. It's been a good formula this year, and I don't see any reason to change anything going into next year."