Ex-Ulster fly-half O'Connor to caddie for McIlroy in Dubai thumbnail

Ex-Ulster fly-half O’Connor to caddie for McIlroy in Dubai

Rory McIlroy and Niall O'Connor

Ex-Ulster and Connacht fly-half Niall O’Connor is ‘on the bag’ for world number two Rory McIlroy this week

Former Ulster fly-half Niall O’Connor is to caddie for fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy at this week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

World number two McIlroy is without regular caddie Harry Diamond but insists he knows the course well enough to cope in his absence.

“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,” said the two-time winner.

“I’ve been coming back here for 10 years. I know the place like the back of my hand. The golf course has got better and better every year and it feels like a much bigger event now.

“One of the big things round here is if you have a bit of length it is an advantage. Most of the guys here this week have played the course before and know what it takes to play well here.

“It’s a place which holds a lot of goof memories for me and the way I’ve been playing the last few months hopefully I can go out, give myself a chance and finish the season off on a high.”

Diamond has the week off after his wife, Claire, gave birth to the couple’s first child.

O’Connor, who also played for Connacht, Ireland Wolfhounds and Ireland Under-20s, is another of McIlroy’s long-time friends.

“Niall is here and it’s going to be a fun week for us. Obviously I’ll maybe take on a bit more responsibility than I usually do,” said McIlroy.

“It feels a bit like when Harry first came on the bag a few years ago, writing stuff in my yardage book and pacing stuff out. I actually quite enjoy that part of it.

“Niall and I go back a long way. I need to feel as relaxed and loose as possible out there and he can help me with that.”

The DP World Tour Championship is the European Tour’s season-ending event and although McIlroy has been mathematically eliminated from winning the Race to Dubai, there is a first-place cheque of $3m on offer.

Having won his last tournament, the WGC-HSBC Champions, the four-time major winner could match his career best with five wins this calendar year and another title would also slice further into Brooks Koepka’s advantage at the top of the world rankings.

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