Rory McIlroy has his sights on victory in South Africa as he bids to get 2017 off to a flying start.
The world number two is the headline name at the BMW SA Open at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg this week.
Aside from a missed cut in 2013, McIlroy has finished in the top five in his first event after the Christmas break in each of the past eight years.
That is a run he hopes to maintain – and better – as he makes his first appearance in the South African event since the 2009 season.
The Northern Irishman, who is testing a new combination of clubs this week following Nike’s decision to stop manufacturing such equipment, said: “I know that if I play the way I can then I will have a good chance to win but I need to make sure I concentrate on getting myself into that position on Sunday afternoon.
“I was one shot out of the play-off in 2008. That result actually got me into the top 50 in the world for the first time, which was great, but it would be nice to go a couple better this week.
“This is the first time I have been here in a while and it seems like there’s a lot of excitement around the tournament. I think it’s a really good golf course.”
McIlroy is competing in the event to support his friend Ernie Els, the tournament host. Four-time major winner Els, 47, played in the Irish Open, hosted by the Rory Foundation, in 2015.
McIlroy, 27, said: “Ernie was the first big, big name I played with as a pro. I have always been a huge fan of his game but I am a bigger fan of the man and to have been able to get to know him and Liezl and the kids over the past few years in Florida has been great.
“Anything I can do to help Ernie I always will. I actually named my first dog after Ernie – I called him Theo (Els’ first name).”
Other notable names in the field include six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo, who is making a rare tournament appearance and his first on the European Tour since 2014, and fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan.
Home favourites alongside Els include defending champion Brandon Stone, George Coetzee and Retief Goosen.Rory McIlroy, South Africa