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McIlroy going into the unknown at this week's Irish Open

(Reuters) - World number six Rory McIlroy goes into the unknown this week when he competes in the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort in County Cork.

The Northern Irishman, who shot a closing three-over-par 73 to finish joint 23rd at the U.S. Open on Sunday, has never been to Cork before.

"I don't know Fota at all," McIlroy told the tour website (www.europeantour.com) on Monday. "It's going to be good.

"Irish Opens are always great events. They are always so well supported and so well attended so I'm looking forward to it."

Compatriot Graeme McDowell, who was tied for 28th at Pinehurst, North Carolina on Sunday, echoed the views of his Ryder Cup team mate.

"The Irish Open is always special to us as Irish players," said the world number 22. "Everyone is going to be very excited and very pumped up - it should be great."

Fota Island should provide a less difficult test for the two former U.S. Open champions than Pinehurst.

"I vaguely remember watching the Irish Open on TV when it was there in 2002," said McIlroy.

"It's a parkland golf course which will be nice after last week at Pinehurst where I made only nine birdies in four rounds.

"I'm a little disappointed I didn't do better but I'm really happy with where my game is right now and it'll be the first time playing in Europe since I won the BMW PGA Championship (last month)," added the twice former major winner.

"I'm going there third in the Race to Dubai so there's a lot to play for."

The Irish Open, which has a prize fund of two million euros ($2.72 million), starts on Thursday.

($1 = 0.7345 Euros)

(Writing by Tim Collings, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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