DUBAI, Jan 24 — Rory McIlroy will be hoping to pick up plenty of good vibes and continue his incredible record when he tees it up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club this week.
Riding high on confidence after racking up a creditable tied third last week, the 28-year-old Northern Irishman is determined to go the full distance this week to match the great South African’s Ernie Els’ long-standing record of three wins in the ‘Major of the Middle East.’
McIlroy has fond memories of the Majlis course where he claimed his first European Tour victory in 2009 and has not finished outside the top ten in six visits since, with a second win coming in 2015.
Beset by injury woes throughout parts of last year, the mega star endured a stop-start 2017 on the fairways, but returned to action in style, finishing just four shots behind winner Tommy Fleetwood at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
“I have always enjoyed playing at the Majlis Course, first win,” he said. “Played as an amateur in 2007 and I remember after that week I got to World Number One amateur.
“Won here twice. Dubai is a place that I’ve gotten to know very well. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people very well here. You know, it’s a place I love to come back to.
“I’m looking forward to getting going again. I missed it last year and I missed having a chance to win and having a chance to compete.
“It’s always one of the highlights of the year for me to come and play here with the memories that I have. Looking forward to getting back out there on Thursday and trying to give myself another chance to win.”
The four-time Major Championship winner said Monday was his first day off in just over two weeks and he believes he is in a good place to kick on after exceeding expectations in Abu Dhabi.
“Really happy with how everything went last week,” he said. “If someone had said to me at the start of the week, you’d shoot 18-under par your first week back on, I thought, quite a difficult golf course.
“The rough was up a little bit and maybe some of the greens were soft, tricky conditions on Sunday, I would have thought 18 under par would have a great chance to win.
“It was above expectations for me, to be honest. I thought if I could have shot four rounds under par and just saw some good, positive signs in my game, I would have went away happy. Played four rounds and felt no ill effects of the week.
“I guess that has changed the way I view this week a little bit because of how I played last week. I know that my game is in good enough shape to contend and try to win.
“I feel like I’ve got a bit of a spring back in in my step because of what happened last week and very confident in myself,” said McIlroy, currently ranked 11th in the world.
The past two winners of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic have gone on to win the Masters, but McIlroy would not read anything into it. “Just a coincidence. But it’s great that Danny (Willettt) and Sergio (Garcia) went on to do something very special a couple of events after winning here. So, try to keep the run going.
“I don’t think, you can read too much into that,” said McIlroy, who himself needs to win the elusive green jacket to compete a career Grand Slam.