McIlroy buzzing at Newcastle

Brian Keogh at Royal County Down

Rory McIlroy is buzzing with energy and looking forward to an electric Walker Cup on his home patch.

The Holywood livewire is about to start a high profile career in the selfish world of professional golf.

But for now he's just excited about the clash with the United States and admits that he can't wait tramp the fairways of Royal County Down with his his 10,000-strong army of supporters.

As Great Britain and Ireland bid to justify their tags are red-hot favourites, the Ulster ace knows that the team element will make it an even bigger occasion that his year's Open at Carnoustie.

McIlroy said: "People have made comparisons about Carnoustie and this week but I think it's completely different.

"You're playing for nine other guys out there. The crowds at Carnoustie were pretty awesome but I think this week's just going to be so much better for me, and for everyone else.

"This week the crowds walk with you on the fairway and I'm just really looking forward to it and I can't wait to get started.

"I think when the crowds walk with you on the fairways, it creates a better atmosphere, as well. There's really no way to describe it.

"It just creates a buzz around the place. I think that's one of the things we're all really looking forward to is the amount of people that are going to be here.

"I think at the atmosphere on the first tee come Saturday morning is going to be electric. I think we are really looking forward to that."

US skipper Buddy Marucci was happy to concede that Great Britain and Ireland are rightly considered the favourites to win back the trophy where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

But both McIlroy and GB&I ace Lloyd Saltman have no problems dealing with that kind of pressure.

Saltman said: "To be honest, this feels a bit more like a team than last time. We've got a great team, so we're going to go out and try to go one better than last time.

"But it's a ten-man team. One guy can't win the Walker Cup. You need the ten to win it. We're concentrating on that. It's a team effort."

Saltman and McIlroy will soon be playing in the professional ranks and have already lined up sponsors invitations to tee it up in the megabuck Alfred Dunhill Links Championship later this month.

But for now they are enjoying their last team event as amateurs and the mood in the camp is sky high.

McIlroy and room mate Jonny Caldwell have spent their evenings carrying out night-time raids on "neighbours" Saltman and Rhys Davies, who occupy the team next door at the team hotel.

And those pairings are likely to remain in place on Saturday when the action starts with four foursomes matches.

While US skipper Marucci wants all ten men in his side to play at least three matches, opposite number Dalgleish will adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

The Scot concedes that it would be ideal to have all ten men play on the opening day as the foursomes are followed by eight singles matches.

And he'll be expecting big things from McIlroy, who he describes as a once in a lifetime talent.

Dalgleish said: "It's a great and an amazing coincidence to have somebody of Rory's exceptional talent to come along at this moment in time when the matches are being played here at Royal County Down.

"Rory gets no special privileges on the team, and in the team room he bonds very well. He's a very solid team member, and we're certainly on the golf course expecting great things of him also."

McIlroy is such a household name in Northern Ireland that the team spent Wednesday's hour-long bus ride from Baltray to Newcastle watching at DVD of the UTV documentary "Rory's Game".

Quick as a flash Saltman quipped: "And then we woke up."

Reality will kick in for both sides tomorrow morning.