SYDNEY — Rory McIlroy says he admires most things Australian, particularly actor Russell Crowe and former player Greg Norman, and would like nothing more than to get his hands on the Australian Open trophy this week.
The Northern Irishman is playing the event at Royal Sydney from Thursday and revealed Australians figure highly among the people he reveres, but admitted another Australian icon, Vegemite, was not to his taste.
"Russell Crowe’s always been my favourite Australian actor and my favourite all-time Australian golfer is Greg Norman," he said on Tuesday. "I don’t mind the meat pies but just can’t get used to Vegemite, it’s definitely an Australian-born acquired taste," he said of the thick black spread made from yeast extract.
The former world No1 will tee-up this week looking for his first win in more than 12 months, with locals Adam Scott and Jason Day his main challengers.
While the likes of Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have won the event in the past, McIlroy is gunning to be only the second European after England’s Lee Westwood to claim victory.
He said Norman was an idol and winning in Australia would be a huge moment for him.
"Being a multiple Major winner and a former world number one, the Great White Shark will forever be remembered in the game," he said of Norman.
"Aside from his great golfing achievements, Greg is a hugely successful businessman. Not many golfers have successfully made that transition. I know Greg also has won the Australian Open many times and that is my goal this week.
"So to win the Australian Open would be huge for me. It would stamp my place in the history books of the Australian Open alongside people like Greg, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and so many other great players.
"And following in their footsteps would never be a bad thing." It is the first time McIlroy has competed in an Australian Open since 2006 when he played as an amateur — averaging 76 over the four rounds to finish in a distant share of 51st place.
After some recent good results, including sixth at the BMW Masters in Shanghai and fifth in the European Tour season-ending DP World Tour Championship, he is quietly confident of winning his first tournament of the season.
"I came away from both tournaments a bit disappointed, but when you’re getting to push to that level, or that stage, and you’re disappointed walking away with pretty decent finishes, you know that you’re on the right track."
"I’ve got this week’s Australian Open and then Tiger’s event next week in LA, so it would be great to finish the year with a win."