McIlroy seeks debut win in Ireland
World No 2 Rory McIlroy not only has to deal with a bout of hay fever but also the overwhelming expectations of a home crowd as he seeks to capture a first ever Irish Open success.
McIlroy has again forgone competing in this week's US PGA National at the Congressional Club in Maryland, and venue of his 2011 US Open success, to contest the Irish Open.
McIlroy was aged just 16, and in the middle of a prolific winning amateur career, when he made his Irish Open debut in 2005 on the same Carton House course that hosts this week's event.
And while McIlroy has since won two Majors and eight other events around the globe, he dearly would love to add a first Irish Open victory to his golfing CV.
"Life has changed a little bit since 2005, as I remember getting kicked out of bars after missing the cut on the Friday night because I wasn't old enough to drink," he smiled.
"But it's good to be back to Carton House as my first Irish Open was here, and it's just great to again be playing in an Irish Open."
However, McIlroy tees-up in the 2million euros tournament as the overwhelming crowd favourite and with organisers expecting to better last year's 106 000 attendance at Royal Portrush.
McIlroy admitted that the biggest hurdle he faces is not a first victory this season but dealing with the expectations of the crowd.
"I've felt suffocated a couple of times playing in an Irish Open and having that burden and that pressure and that expectation," he said.
"The expectation and wanting to do so well is the biggest thing I will have to deal with because you're playing in front of these people and these fans.
"I've tried to deal with it the last couple of years and just try to embrace the whole week and enjoy the attention and the enjoy the spotlight that is on you this week."
And McIlroy has apologised for his actions at last fortnight's US Open when he was seen to bend a 9-iron in frustration after a poor shot at Merion's 11th hole in the final round of the event led to a very uncharacteristic '8'.
"I just got frustrated and definitely it was not the right thing to do," he said.
"I would not recommend anyone or anyone watching on TV or any kids to start throwing or bending their 9-irons.
"But the 9-iron is intact and I've got a new shaft this week and it's ready to go."
McIlroy will play the opening two rounds alongside two former Irish Open winners in Denmark's Thomas Bjorn (2005) and fellow Irishman Shane Lowry (2009).
Also in the field are fellow major Champions, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Lawrie and Michael Campbell.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who captured a first Tour victory last year at Royal Portrush, is defending the title