Rory McIlroy: “Tiger Woods, lot of memories”

Rory McIlroy is hopeful that a happy hunting ground can bring him a first Rolex Series title as he tees it up at this week’s 2022 Dubai Desert Classic. McIlroy made just his fourth DP World Tour start at Emirates Golf Club as a 16-year-old amateur in 2006 – also following Tiger Woods round inside the ropes – and three years later he lifted the trophy for his first victory. He won the Dallah Trophy again in 2015 and having also tasted glory twice at the DP World Tour Championship and lived in the Emirate, the Northern Irishman is delighted to be back.

Rory McIlroy, statements

“This was one of the first events I played on the European Tour back in 2006 as a 16-year-old,” said McIlroy, who has finished in the top ten at this event in each of his last eight appearances, including his two wins and a second place in 2018. “A lot of good memories here. Played 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’ve got good memories here. Have a lot of close friends from this region. It’s a very comfortable place for me and it’s nice to be back. Even coming here and playing social golf as well, you just look at everything around and I think about the first time I came here in 2006 and none of this was around. It just sort of shows how far Dubai has come and the presence it has on the global stage and what this city means to the region, it’s pretty impressive.”

McIlroy’s experience of seeing 15-time Major Championship winner Woods win this event 16 years ago has stuck with him and, with a stellar field assembled this week, he is hopeful the next generation will take inspiration from seeing their heroes.

“There’s so many guys,” he said. “Collin (Morikawa), Viktor (Hovland). You have got so many guys that have been part of the Tour for so long: I’m thinking like Harrington, Poulter, Westwood, Stenson, Monty (Colin Montgomerie) for sure. How many more times are people going to get a chance to see Monty play golf in this part of the world? I had a better view than most being able to get inside the ropes and have a media credential. Tiger hit a five iron out of the right rough on ten and landed on the green 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. But it’s cool. I watched a lot of golf events as a teenager and went to Mount Juliet for the World Golf Championships, went to The Open at Troon, went to the World Match Play at Wentworth a bunch of times. 

“I loved getting up close and watching those guys play and try to learn something from them and get inspiration. If there’s young kids running around this week that can feel the same way or feel the same things as what I thought back then, then that’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Scores of 67-69 over the weekend at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship helped McIlroy to a tie for 12th in another event where he has an excellent record, and the four-time Major winner is not looking to make any big adjustments.

“It was a good weekend last weekend, a disappointing finish on Sunday but I felt some of the golf I played over the weekend was very encouraging,” he said. “I guess 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.”