FANLING, Hong Kong (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy could be forgiven for taking his foot off the gas at this week’s Hong Kong Open after securing the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic with a third-place finish in Singapore on Sunday.
However, the British world number one insists the adrenaline that flowed at September’s Ryder Cup victory and his U.S PGA Championship triumph the previous month will continue to run at one of his happiest hunting grounds.
“Back in 2005, I first came here as a junior in the Faldo Series. We stayed at the golf club and I really enjoyed the course,” the defending Hong Kong Open champion told reporters on Wednesday.
”Then when I came back here as a European Tour player, I stayed in Hong Kong city and really enjoyed the buzz and the atmosphere.
“But its here at the golf course that I have had some great experiences as a player, taking part in one of the best ever playoffs against Lin Wen-tang in 2008 and then finally putting my name on the trophy last year,” the 23-year-old added.
“I wasn’t feeling well on the Saturday and went into the final round three behind but shot a 65, holing a bunker shot at the last, to win by two.”
McIlroy admits that his love of the Fanling course was one of his main motivations to return to Hong Kong as he attempts to pick up a fifth victory of the season at the co-sanctioned Asian and European Tour event.
“It is really old school,” he said. “I love the trees that frame most of the holes. You can really see your shots. There is a lot of definition. Length here doesn’t matter. There won’t be too many drivers used around here.”
Among the sub-plots being played out this week will be the final formation of the top 60 on the Race to Dubai money list that will advance to a trip to the Emirate for next week’s season-ending TP World Tour Championship.
Former European Ryder Cup players David Howell (61st) and Paul Casey (74th) have travelled to Hong Kong sitting outside the cut-off point, desperately hoping they can finish high enough to earn a berth at the lucrative tournament.
The final positions on Sunday will also decide which players will retain their European Tour cards for 2013, with the top 119 players on the money list keeping their privileges for at least another season.
Editing by John O'Brien