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McIlroy eyes a slice of Australian Open history

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy is looking to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the only non-Australian players to have won back-to-back Australian Open titles when the world No. 1 tees off on Thursday in Sydney.

Having finished the DP World Tour Championship with a share of second place, McIlroy will arrive in Sydney on Monday for the event at The Australian Golf Club.

His sights will be on achieving a rare feat among non-Australians of winning the title for a second year in a row. Nicklaus won in 1975 and 1976, while Player managed the feat twice — retaining the title for the first time in 1963 and then again in 1970.

“I noticed on the trophy when I was handed it last year I was the first non-Australian to win the Australian Open since Tim Clark in 2008 but to match something that Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have achieved would be amazing,” McIlroy said Sunday.

It’s not the only connection to come to the Northern Irishman’s notice.

“Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player are two players to have won the Grand Slam and their connection with the Australian Open is pretty timely for me.”

McIlroy only needs an elusive victory in the Masters at Augusta to complete his Grand Slam, and it’s clearly a subject that has been on his mind for a while.

“I have been thinking about Augusta next year since the 18th August this year when I won the PGA Championship for a second time,” he said. “So it might be a good omen for me going to Augusta in April if I could again win the Australian Open.”

McIlroy will warm up for his title defense by playing a practice round on Tuesday with 16-year-old amateur Ryan Ruffels.

Once the Australian Open is over, McIlroy said he will travel to New York to host two corporate evenings on behalf of his foundation.

He will then take a break from the game over Christmas and New Year prior to returning to the United Arab Emirates to work on his game before his first event of 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starting on Jan. 15.

“I will have a little bit of downtime over Christmas and New Year, which will be nice and I’ll start practicing again early in the New Year and get ready for Abu Dhabi,” he said.

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