That was then. Rory McIlroy drives at the seventh in the third round of the inaugural Dubai World Championship in 2009. Picture www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy might be suffering from a mystery virus but won’t mentally “bug” rival Luke Donald in their Race to Dubai showdown.

The Holywood star must win this week’s Dubai World Championship and hope that Donald finishes outside the top nine if he is to become European No 1.

And while he admits he lost the psychological battle with Lee Westwood for the money title in 2009, he’ll stick to playing his own game this time and forget about trying to psyche out his opponent.

Low on energy but determined to go down fighting, McIlroy said: “I am not one to try to play mind games and try to get into anyone’s head. I am just looking forward to playing the best that I can and hopefully that is good enough at the end of the week.

“My energy levels are not exactly where I would want them to be, but I took a day off yesterday and took it easy. I’m not 100 per cent, but I’m still able to go out and play 18 holes and try and give it my all.”

His attitude is an example of just how much he has matured over the past two years.

Winning Sunday’s Hong Kong Open by holing a sensational final hole bunker shot kept McIlroy’s Race to Dubai hopes alive.

But he’s still €789,789 behind world No 1 Donald with only €922,645 on offer for the winner this week.

Low on energy and awaiting the results of blood tests after picking up a virus during a marathon 10-week trek around the world, the Irish world No 2 knows the odds are stacked against him.

But he’s not giving up, insisting: “I’ve still got a slim chance. I’ve got to win and Luke has to finish outside the top nine or 10, whatever it is.

“I’m really not counting on him to do that because he’s only finished outside the top 10 about twice this year.”

McIlroy knows that he must get off to a fast start when he’s paired with Donald for tomorrow’s first round.

Two years ago he was outgunned by two shots by Westwood and admitted he lost the mental battle by admitting that he was glad he woudn’t have to look into his stablemate’s eyes the following day.

Hoping he’s learned from that experience, McIlroy said: “It was tough to fully concentrate on my own game when you’re looking at the player beside you.

“I feel like it’s something I’ve learnt because when I go out with Luke in the last game I’ll only be trying to concentrate on myself and making sure that I can play the best I can.”

Westwood could smash McIlroy’s hopes by winning himself this week but he reckons his former stablemate is a far more experienced player than the 20-year old he “bullied” in 2009.

Westwood said: “He is obviously more experienced now. He’s got two years more experience and he did well to win in Hong Kong last week and give himself a chance to win the Race to Dubai.

“But I think Luke has the big advantage this week. It is always difficult when you have to win to actually do it.”