Rory McIlroy relishing return to familiar surroundings for Dubai Desert Classic
Rory McIlroy’s last appearance in the Dubai Desert Classic ended in huge frustration, but the two-time winner feels back in his comfort zone at Emirates Golf Club.
McIlroy held a two-shot lead with eight holes to play in 2018, but bogeyed the 11th and 16th and three-putted the par-five 13th for par as China’s Li Haotong claimed the biggest win of his career.
Asked his reaction at missing out on a first win since September 2016, McIlroy told European Tour Radio: “Yeah, p***** off. The competitor in me is very disappointed right now.”
Despite missing out on victory four years ago, McIlroy has a superb overall record in the event, winning his first European Tour title here in 2009 and regaining the trophy in 2015, as well as recording six other top-10 finishes.
“A lot of good memories here,” the four-time major winner said. “Played (twice) as an amateur, got to world number one amateur after playing pretty well in 2007.
“I lived in Dubai for four years as well. I have a lot of close friends from this region. It’s a very comfortable place for me and it’s nice to be back.
“This was one of the first events I played on the European Tour back in 2006 as a 16-year-old. After one round I was able to get inside the ropes and have a media credential and watch Tiger (Woods).
“He hit a five-iron out of the right rough on 10 and stopped it on the green and to this day it was one of the best golf shots I’ve ever seen. Just sticks out in my mind and I was right there for it.
“It’s a great golf course. It’s a fun golf course to play, gives you plenty of opportunities to make birdies. You have the three par fives on the back nine. You have a couple of reachable par fours.
“The course, as the trees grow up, everything got claustrophobic over the years and they have sort of tried to clear that out again.
“It definitely doesn’t feel as constricting as it used to and it certainly doesn’t feel as constricting as even like last week where you had a lot of trouble on either side of fairways and water.
“There’s some opportunities where you can just step up and give it a rip, which is nice.”
McIlroy had to birdie the 18th to make the halfway cut on the mark of three over par in Abu Dhabi, but surged through the field over the weekend and was just two shots off the lead after 13 holes of the final round.
Three bogeys in the last five holes meant the 32-year-old had to settle for a tie for 12th as former Ryder Cup partner Thomas Pieters went on to lift the title.
“It was a good weekend, a disappointing finish on Sunday but I felt some of the golf I played over the weekend was very encouraging,” McIlroy added.
“I guess (I need) just more of the same, maybe just try to refine a few things here and there.
“But it’s early in the year, and all I can ask for is getting myself into contention, trying to hit shots under pressure when it matters and hopefully I get another chance to do that this week.”
‘Is this where I am going to die?’ Nicolas Colsaerts on kidney disorder battle
The Belgian is the focus of attention this week as he belatedly defends the Cazoo Open de France title he won three years ago.
On this day in 2008: Ryder Cup misery in Louisville for Nick Faldo’s Europe team
Faldo was heavily criticised for his tactics in the closing singles.
Open champion Cameron Smith wins first LIV trophy in just second start
The world number two is the highest-ranked player to join the rebel series.
Robert MacIntyre beats Matt Fitzpatrick in play-off to win Italian Open
MacIntyre birdied the first extra hole at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, the venue for next year’s Ryder Cup.
Matt Fitzpatrick holds narrow lead ahead of final round at Italian Open
Rory McIlroy and Aaron Rai are one shot off the pace.
Rory McIlroy picks up the pace to claim lead ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick in Rome
McIlroy’s group looked unlikely to complete their second rounds after taking three hours to play nine holes.
Matt Fitzpatrick leads way at Italian Open despite ‘inconsistent’ display
The US Open champion held a one-shot lead over fellow Englishman Tom Lewis,
Rory McIlroy rues a late night until eagle gets him flying in Italian Open
The four-time major winner was only a shot behind leader Matt Fitzpatrick after the first round of the Rome event.
Rory McIlroy begins Italian Open with superb 67 after recovering from slow start
He kick-started his round by holing out from 115 yards for an eagle on the par-four third.
Shane Lowry: Golf risks alienating fans with disgusting amount of money involved
The BMW PGA Championship winner insists he was never tempted to join LIV Golf.