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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
McIlroy magnetism
By John Haughey
BBC Sport

Rory McIlroy
Saturday 8 September
From 1300 BST; BBC ONE, TWO & BBCi
Sunday 9 September
From 1200 BST; BBC TWO & BBCi
The only mild hitch to Rory McIlroy's build-up to this week's Walker Cup was finding that his surname was incorrectly printed on the team golf bag that he was presented with.

The 18-year-old did the running repairs himself with a paintbrush to change the offending McILrory on his otherwise impressive Great Britain and Ireland bag.

The prodigy's presence is certain to draw large crowds to Royal County Down on Saturday and Sunday.

The teenager's talent has wowed golf lovers in Ireland for several years and that ability was demonstrated to a worldwide television audience in July when he claimed the Silver Medal at the Open Championship.

His opening 68 was the only bogey-free effort in the first round at Carnoustie and his performance caught the imagination of both spectators and the media alike at the famous Scottish links.

This weekend's event will be McIlroy's final major competition as an amateur before he turns pro and attempts to win a European Tour card later this year.

McIlroy was out in a three-ball with team-mates Llewellyn Matthews and Jamie Moul in Tuesday morning's practice at RCD.

The banter was good throughout the round with Welshman Matthews ribbing the Holywood teenager about the banner headlines he is getting in the Northern Ireland press this week.

I'm driving it quite long and I'm hitting most of the fairways

Rory McIlroy

"The lads have been giving me some stick but we've all known each other for a good few years and there's a great atmosphere among the players in the team," McIlroy told BBC Sport after Tuesday morning's round.

Just as was the case at the Open, experienced English caddie Gordon Faulkner is on McIlroy's bag this week.

On the 15th fairway, the bagman was heard recalling Phil Mickelson's faux pas on the last occasion the Walker Cup was played in the Emerald Isle at Portmarnock in 1991.

Mickelson's jokey comment that "Irish women are not that good looking" had gone down like a lead balloon and led to the then collegiate star having to make hurried apologies on the national airwaves.

"I don't know what he was talking about," said McIlroy's caddie.

"He should have been in that bar with us last night. He would have seen at least 10 great-looking women."

While McIlroy was paired with Matthews and Moul on Tuesday morning there appears little doubt that he will tee up alongside his fellow-Ulsterman Jonathan Caldwell come Saturday.

The duo combined impressively as Ireland won the European Team Championship in July and McIlroy clearly believes that their partnership can work just as effectively at Royal County Down.

"Everyone knows that me and Jonny are likely to play together," he added.

The local hero pulled a couple of drives into the heavy Newcastle rough early in the back nine but he quickly got back into the groove by hitting a 320-yard drive on 13 which set up a birdie and his play during the remainder of the round was impeccable.

At the closing hole, his 320-plus-yard tee shot was some 40 yards ahead of Matthews and Moul and one well-struck two iron later, McIlroy was on the green.

"I'm driving it quite long and I'm hitting most of the fairways. In practice rounds, you just have to see the course and how its playing," said McIlroy.

Caldwell was also in good mood after his morning round and lauding the condition of the links.

"The last time I played it, it was maybe a little soft but the fairways have firmed up and the greens are fantastic," said the Clandeboye player.

After being named in the 10-man team four weeks ago, Caldwell headed back to his collegiate base in Alabama for almost a fortnight.

"I went for about 12 days. Actually, I had to go back and show my face around class and it was also a good chance to get away and get some work done with my coach Ben Hannan."


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