Rory McIlroy would love to show he can scrap it out in a dogfight in tough weather. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieFighting Irishmen Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy are ready to pick themselves up off the canvas and put on a knockout Irish Open show.

McIlroy admits he will never dominate golf until he conquers his tendency to throw the towel in when the going gets tough.

Despite being acknowledged as the most gifted golfer on the planet, he again finds himself chasing Luke Donald after spending just seven weeks as world No 1.

He has missed the cut in four of his last five tournaments, and the 23 year old Ulsterman knows he’ll be under extra pressure to perform when he tees off in the Irish Open today as one of the home favourites.

But the former US Open champion insists a return to the scene of one of his most amazing achievements – he shot a course record 61 at Royal Portrush as a 16 year old amateur – will bring the best out of him.

He commented: “Definitely in the past, if things haven’t gone my way the fight goes out of me pretty quickly.

“That’s something I’m working on, and something I’m trying to get better at.

“When I said I took my eye off the ball after missing the cut at Wentworth I didn’t mean I was completely neglecting my game.

“I just realised that if I want to stay at the top of my game I needed to work as hard as I did when I was preparing for the start of the season.

“That was one of the reasons I brought my coach, Michael Bannon, out on Tour with me. It was something I’ve been trying to persuade him to do for a long time, and for him to with me full time is something I think will be very beneficial for me.

“In a way it couldn’t be a better time to come back here and play Portrush. It brings back so many good memories. You can feed off that, and that gives you some confidence.”

McIlroy has been working hard on his game since he missed the cut in the US Open and feel ready to live up to his tag as the home favourite after some poor Irish Open performances.

After finishing seventh four years ago, he’s been a disappointing 50th, 36th and 34th in his last three home visits.

But he’s now ready to feed off the massive home crowds and put on a show in the first Irish Open held north of the border for 59 years.

Confessing that he’s struggled to deal with Irish Open pressure in the past, McIlroy said: “To be honest, the last couple of years I didn’t quite enjoy the tag of the home favourite. I just didn’t just feel very comfortable with it.

“This year I really want to embrace that. You look at so many people and when they have got a home advantage, it is an advantage, and it should be for not just me but for the other guys from here as well.

“It’s something that you really have to embrace, and that’s what I’m going to try and do this week.”

Fellow Major winner Clarke also believes his timing is perfect as he returns over his home course after a four week break to recover from a groin injury.

Clarke, who will defend his Open title at Royal Lytham next month, explained: “Portrush is such a special place, and winning the Open last year was due to the fact that I was living here again.

“The peace of mind I got from living in such a wonderful, down-to earth place, and the opportunity to play and practice on such a great course, were big factors in my success. I can’t think of a better place to return after my injury break.”

Yet to make a halfway cut this year, the big Ulsterman quietly fancies his chances of turning his nightmare form around this week after slowing working his way back to full fitness.

Clarke said: “Most definitely. I obviously know the golf course and I’m hitting the ball pretty well at the minute, so we will see.

“The course is wonderful. The European Tour and every body here at Royal Portrush have done an unbelievable job to get it into the shape that it’s in. The greens have come on and it is going to be a very fair test.

“After missing the US Open to rest, I was hitting the ball at about 60 percent and just chipping and putting for a while.

“But for the past couple of weeks I have built it up a bit and everything feels fine at the minute.”

The return to the Irish Open to Royal Portrush is a homage to Northern Ireland’s amazing run of major wins.

And McIlroy admits that watching Graeme McDowell winning the US Open spurred him and Clarke on to further major success last summer.

Rory explained: “It all started back with Pádraig in 2007 when he won at Carnoustie and then he won at Birkdale and Oakland Hills, winning three Majors in quick succession.

“I think that gives a lot of people a lot of belief that they could go on and do similar things. I think it’s just been a knock-on effect.

“To see G-Mac, a very close friend win one; and then Darren sees both of us win one; and me especially, being the little 12-year-old that he took down as part of his foundation in Portmarnock.

“He’s probably thinking, if that little squirt can do it, so can I.”