‘I love competing’ says McIlroy as he chases history in Dubai

World No 2 is bidding to become the first four-time winner of the HERO Dubai Desert Classic in its 35th year at the Emirates Golf Club

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is the favourite to win the 35th HERO Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club. - AP
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland is the favourite to win the 35th HERO Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club. - AP

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2024, 10:28 PM

Rory McIlroy, who spent many of his teenage years growing up on golf courses in the UAE, returns to his happy hunting ground at the Emirates Golf Club in his pursuit to make history by becoming the first golfer to win the HERO Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time.

It seems not long ago that McIlroy birdied the 72nd hole at the Majlis to beat Patrick Reed by one shot to lift the iconic Dallah Trophy for a third time after previous triumphs in 2009 and 2015.

In doing so the World No. 2 matched South Africa's Ernie Els record of three wins at the Majlis. .

Although the golfing maestro from Northern Ireland narrowly missed out on a victory at last week's $2.5 Dubai Invitational at the Dubai Creek Resort, he feels his game is in the right place heading into a tournament chock-full of new and old stars.

Shubhankar Sharma of India tis back for his seventh HERO Dubai Desert Classic. - AP File
Shubhankar Sharma of India tis back for his seventh HERO Dubai Desert Classic. - AP File

"I feel like this tournament has been a sort of staple in my life for at least half of it," he said."I've been coming back to this tournament for 18 years, so over half my life. So wonderful memories of Dubai.

"I feel like it was a place that gave me one of my first opportunities to come out and play on this tour. My first sponsor was from here. My first win was here.

"A lot of firsts for me in this region so it's been an incredible journey and I'm always excited to get back to Dubai with the success that I've had here on this golf course and over at Jumeirah Golf Estates too at the end of the year,” he added.

"I've always liked kicking my year off here. It's a familiar place for me and I feel like if I can play well here, it's a really good sort of stepping stone to the rest of the year."

Last season McIlroy went on to win the Genesis Scottish Open and narrowly missed winning another Major at the US Open before he won the Ryder Cup team competition in Italy.

“I think I played pretty consistently the whole of last year,” he said. “Just didn’t get lucky when I could have done with some luck.

“But obviously this is a new year, a new start and I’m very excited for what lies in store.

"Winning is winning and competing is competing and it doesn't matter whether it's the Dubai Desert Classic over here or whether it's the Honda Classic or whatever it is. I love competing. I love to try to win golf tournaments," Rory said.

"Majors are really, really important in this game but it's not the only thing that matters in my mind and there are other things.

"I would love to get my hands on another one so to me, it's like the last step on this journey that I've been on this last few years.”

But before he does head West McIlroy has to contend with some familiar faces on the tour including his vanquisher from last week Fleetwood, fellow Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton, Brian Harman, Cameron Young, Nicolai Hojgaard, Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, veteran Padraig Harrington, and Ryan Fox.

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This year’s HERO Dubai Desert Classic will be contested by a field of 126 players all of whom will be vying for a share of the $9 million prize money on offer, with the winner taking home $1.53m.

The format for the tournament remains the same as it was in its inaugural year in 1989 which is a standard strokeplay event over 72 holes with a cut coming after two rounds. The leading 65 players and ties will then compete in the championship rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

leslie@khaleejtimes.com


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