Rory McIlroy is targeting strong performances in back-to-back events on European soil to boost his hopes of winning another Harry Vardon Trophy, starting with the Horizon Irish Open at The K Club.

The four-time Major Champion leads the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex ahead of Ireland’s national open and next week’s BMW PGA Championship, the penultimate Rolex Series event of the season, which form part of his final preparations for the upcoming Ryder Cup.

McIlroy was crowned European Number One for a fourth time last year and victory in the season-long rankings this year will see him move three behind the record of Colin Montgomerie.

While he will be unable to replicate the rare feat he achieved last year of winning both the Race to Dubai Rankings and the FedExCup on the PGA TOUR, the World Number Two is excited by what is on the horizon.

“I’ve got a nice little cushion at the minute, but these two weeks are important,” said McIlroy, who has won two Rolex Series events in Dubai and Scotland so far this year.

“I want to play well for a number of reasons. I want to feel like I’m confident and in good form going into the Ryder Cup obviously.

“But I think it would be a pretty cool achievement to win The Race to Dubai for a fifth time and start creeping up on Monty.”

This week sees McIlroy return to the scene of his memorable victory at Ireland’s national open when he finished birdie-par-eagle to win by three strokes in 2016.

After seeing a three-shot lead turn into a one-shot deficit in the final round, McIlroy produced two stunning long-range approach shots from the fairway to seal victory at the 2006 Ryder Cup venue.

“The two shots I hit on 16 then the two on 18, that’s the way you want to try to close out a golf tournament. It was amazing,” McIlroy recalled.

“They had set up a sort of bar on the right side of 16 and when my ball hit the green I just remember the roar from over there was pretty cool.

“It was a great finish and for as long as I can remember the only tournament my mum ever wanted to see me win was The Irish Open.

“So, for her to be there and for me to win it, it means a lot to her obviously and a lot to us as a family.”

Since then, no golfer from the island of Ireland has won the event but there are hopes that could change this time around as McIlory is joined by fellow former winners Shane Lowry and Pádraig Harrington in the field.

McIlory is playing for the first time since the Tour Championship on the PGA TOUR two weeks ago when he was impeded by a muscle spasm suffered prior to the event.

Despite soreness, he ended the week with a 65 to finish fourth in Atlanta and says he is now back to near full fitness.

“I would say it’s at 90 percent, 95 percent. It’s not 100 percent better. I just happened to take care of it a little bit but it’s not preventing me from doing anything I want to do. Just being a little mindful … I got back from the TOUR Championship and then just started to do some rehab exercises for it. Went to see the physio a couple times.”

With just three weeks left before the Ryder Cup, McIlroy is feeling confident about the makeup of Luke Donald’s 12-player team as Team Europe look to reclaim the trophy at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Italy.

“I think it’s going to be a great Ryder Cup,” he said.

“I am pretty sure it’s going to be a lot closer than it was last time, and I’m feeling really good about it.

“I think it’s exciting to get some new blood in there and I think they bring enthusiasm and an exuberance to the team room and to everything that we do that week.

“So, it’s going to be really exciting.”