McIlroy hopes Yas Links will bring about a change of luck

Rory McIlroy is playing the first two rounds with the defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and the 2020 champion Lee Westwood. — Twitter
Rory McIlroy is playing the first two rounds with the defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and the 2020 champion Lee Westwood. — Twitter

Abu Dhabi - The 32-year-old from Northern Ireland has finished second four times, and third four times at Abu Dhabi Golf Club



By Joy Chakravarty

Published: Wed 19 Jan 2022, 7:30 PM

Rory McIlroy has a stellar record in the $8 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. In 11 starts in the tournament, he has missed just one cut (2013), and finished inside the top-5 nine times. His worst finish, when making the cut, is a tied 11th place in his first appearance in 2008.

He may not have won the championship, but has finished second four times, and third four times. That’s a sensational record by any standard. However, all those performances came at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. This is the first year that the venue has been shifted to Yas Links Golf Club.

The 32-year-old from Northern Ireland is now hoping a change in venue will bring about a change in his luck.

“It’s not frustrating. Really…at the start of a season, you just want to play well. You want to be contending. If you can do that, you should be satisfied,” said McIlroy.

“I have played really well at the other golf course for a long time. And yeah, maybe this is what’s needed to end up winning this thing… a change of golf course. But as I said, it always been a great place to start the year for me. I’ve always played pretty well and hopefully, I can continue that trend this week.

McIlroy has past experience of playing at the links-style course. He also partnered his father, Gerry, in the one-day Al Naboodah Invitational back in 2015. The course has changed since then, and the world No.8 was full of praise.

“I think the golf course is unbelievable shape. It’s in great condition. The fairways are immaculate. The greens are perfect. To start the year here in these conditions is really, really nice,” he added.

“Honestly, I didn’t remember it that well from back then. I think that the rough on the surround has grown in a little more. Visually, there are some holes that are a little intimidating off the tee, just because you see there’s a little bit of trouble here and there.”

McIlroy also said he has new goals for the new year. The one that he particularly spoke about was finding fairways off the tee at least 60 per cent time this year and be a more controlled player like Tiger Woods.

In October 2020, McIlroy had tried to gain distance by increasing his swing speed, but the move had backfired and the four-time major champion struggled to control his tee shots.

“No, I don’t need to,” he explained when asked if gaining distance was a part of his plan again.

“Again, that goal of hitting more fairways, it may even mean throttling back and hitting 3-wood a little more often or hitting clubs that are maybe not as aggressive off tees and just putting yourself in the fairway. Maybe just being a little bit more of a measured and a controlled golfer.

“I’ll certainly pick-and-choose my spots where I can take advantage of the driver and hit it, but the best player of the last 30 years, Tiger, he picked and chose where he hit driver, and he played a very, very controlled game. It didn’t work out too badly for him.

“Not saying that my game compares to his in any way, but there are certainly aspects of what he did so well in the past that I would obviously love to put into my game.”

McIlroy is playing the first two rounds with the defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and the 2020 champion Lee Westwood. They tee off on Thursday at 7.20 am and at 11:55 am on Friday.


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