McIlroy unfazed by caddie change as five remain in Race to Dubai running
Rory McIlroy is expecting a "fun week" after recruiting a familiar face to step in as his caddie for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
After winning in Shanghai in his previous outing at the start of the month, McIlroy is back in action at the European Tour's season-ending event as he bids to finish a successful 2019 on a high.
The world number two has already won four tournaments this year and knows this week's course extremely well, having triumphed there previously in 2012 and 2015.
However, he will have to do so without the services of regular caddie Harry Diamond, who is absent following the birth of his first child. Instead, McIlroy has turned to long-time friend and former rugby player Niall O'Connor - who represented Ireland A during his career - to help him out.
"It's going to be a fun week to get out there with Niall on the bag and hopefully I can play well the first few days and we'll get into the heat of battle hopefully on the weekend and that will be something that will be fun for both of us," McIlroy said.
"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.
"I took on a little more responsibility writing stuff in my yardage book and pacing stuff out. I actually quite enjoy that part, too.
"You know what, it will be fun. Obviously 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."
Made a new friend today in Dubai pic.twitter.com/67y8xZJvZn— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) November 19, 2019
While McIlroy is chasing another title, he is not in the running to finish the year at the top of the European rankings.
Instead, five players are still battling to be crowned the Race to Dubai champion. Bernd Wiesberger leads the way but has some big-name contenders within striking distance, including Open champion Shane Lowry.
"I'm going to go out and give my best this week and no matter what happens, I will be sitting back next week with a major trophy in my cabinet this year, and I'll be happy with what I have," Lowry told the European Tour.
"But it would be incredible to add European number one to that list as well."
Lowry sits fourth in the standings, sandwiched in between Jon Rahm and Matthew Fitzpatrick. However, Tommy Fleetwood - victorious at the Nedbank Challenge last week - is the closest challenger to Austrian Wiesberger.