Can McIlroy end his Major drought after historic Dubai win?

World No. 2 says he learned a lot about himself at Augusta last year which he hopes will hold him in good stead


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Fans watch as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits a shot during the final round at the  Dubai Desert Classic. — Photo by Shihab
Fans watch as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits a shot during the final round at the Dubai Desert Classic. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Sun 21 Jan 2024, 10:48 PM

It is hard not to think that this could be the year that Rory McIlroy would end his wait for another Major title to add to the four that he already has.

Ten years is a long time in any sport and the Northern Irishman must now believe he can set the record straight and add another biggie to his repertoire although he would reveal much in Dubai on Sunday.

McIlroy’s last Major triumph was at the 2014 PGA Championship followed by impressive wins at the 2011 US Open, 2012 PGA Championship, 2014 Open Championship

Along with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, McIlroy is one of three players to win four majors by the age of 25, but not being able to build on that feat must have been playing on his mind.

In less than three months' time he will confront his destiny at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, but having been through back-to-back tournaments in Dubai that really tested his mettle, McIlroy can now cross the Atlantic with renewed confidence in his ability.

“Augusta is still a long way away in golfing terms, a lot can change in two‑and-a-half months,” McIlroy said in Dubai.

“But it’s always nice to get a win. It’s always nice to feel like you’re playing well going into it. I’ve always said that I’ll take execution over preparation every single time because you just have to execute the golf shots, especially there.

“Last year at Augusta, I learnt a lot about myself,” he added. “I’ve told this story numerous times now about the 1st green on Friday and I was already 10 behind at that point. I was 10 behind after two days this week and ended up winning the golf tournament. I feel like I’ve taken that learning and put it into practice a little bit already. That’s a huge thing for me.”

McIlroy has spoken a lot about his mindset and form at the start of the year and most of the conversation has been filled with positives.

“I've still got some big events to come and I think from now until that first or second week in April, at least a part of my mind is going to be towards getting myself absolutely ready for it,” he said.

Sportsmen are often their worst critics and McIlroy was no different saying that he has not lived up to the expectations of his team.

“I have enough people around me to keep me accountable,” he said. “I think that’s really, really important. Whether that’s [coach] Michael Bannon coming out and us working on some stuff; whether that’s like the odd text from Harry [Diamond, his caddie] during an off‑week; doing some work with [putting coach] Brad Faxon at home in Florida, doing work with my trainer; having conversations with Bob Rotella.

“I feel like if I’m not trying my best I’m letting them down,” he confessed. “If they are putting 100 per cent of their effort into it, then I feel like I should at least give them the respect to put 100 per cent of my effort in as well.”

Perhaps he was a bit hard on himself, given how well he has started the year, with so many goals available to players of his ability on both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour.

However, McIlroy did spare a moment to acknowledge that he had made a solid start to what could be a symbolic year.

“Getting a win early in the year is always important,” he said. “I think it really can sort of act as a nice springboard into the rest of the year.

“I knew my game was in good shape, and I think getting the win just sort of validates that you're on the right path and you're doing the right things.”

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