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Rory has plans to attack

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“I’m going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we’ll see what happens this week.”

Rory McIlroy is happy with his game ahead of todays first round at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: ian Langsdon/EPA

Rory MciLroy is one of the true big hitters in the game so it’s no surprise he has a clear plan to attack the par-fives in this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.

But he is also prepared to play conservatively around the par-threes and par-fours on the demanding Sun City layout.

“You have four par-fives, so you try to take advantage of those, and it’s actually a golf course where you have to play quite conservatively after that,” he said yesterday.

“You can’t be too aggressive. You’ve just got to get your ball on the fairway, and if that means leaving yourself longer second shots in, that’s what you have to do. It’s all about getting your ball in play.

“I’m going to need some great golf over the next two weeks, but we’ll see what happens this week.”

McIlroy hasn’t been to the NGC since 2009, so he wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the tough Gary Player Country Club layout.

“Honestly I didn’t really remember much about the course or the place when we got in on Sunday night,” he said. “I played a few holes on Monday. I couldn’t remember one hole. But then I went and just played the pro-am and on the back nine, I remembered a few of the holes. Obviously the finish over the water is quite memorable.”

In 2009, he lasted one round before food poisoning laid him low and he withdrew, but he has since renewed his acquaintance with South Africa and it’s one which pleases him.

“It’s nice to be back in Sun City,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to really contend the last time I was here, and the tournament’s changed a lot since then. I think that time, it was just a handful of guys and obviously now it’s 72. It’s much more competitive.”

He played the SA Open on his return to South Africa in 2017 and drew thousands to Glendower Golf Club to watch him lose to Graeme Storm in a tense play-off.

“I have very fond memories of the SA Open at Glendower,” he said. “It was one of the coolest weeks I’ve had on tour with just the scenes and the play-off and the crowds coming up 18. I came very close to win that week and didn’t quite get it done. It would be nice to get a win down here finally.”

While McIlroy is the highest ranked player in the field, he will be up against a determined title defence from Branden Grace, as well as a phalanx of local challengers wanting to win “Africa’s Major”.