Defending champion Rory McIlroy believes his game is a little bit sharper as he chases a record-equalling third Omega Dubai Desert Classic title at Emirates Golf Club. “It’s always nice to be back in Dubai, and I guess the last couple of times I’ve played here I’ve done pretty well, so I’m sort of going for three in a row in Dubai with winning here last year and then winning the DP World Tour Championship at the end of last season,” said the Northern Irishman on the eve of the ‘Major of the Middle East.’
“I think this is my tenth year here. I played twice as an amateur. So I’ve got a lot of great memories and I get a lot of support here.
“There are a couple of little things that I took from Abu Dhabi and worked on last week. So hopefully you’ll see my game just a little bit sharper, and I’ll be trying to win again here,” said McIlroy who is aiming to emulate the great Ernie Els as the only player to have won three times here.
McIlroy’s playing partner in the first two rounds Henrik Stenson also hopes some great memories of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic will stand him in good stead when he tees it up Thursday.
Fresh from a runner-up finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and a tie for third at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the 39-year-old Swede is keen to extend his impressive record in the Middle East.
Stenson missed last week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters for the first time in 15 years to rest his knee, but the World Number Six was pleased with his first run-out of the year in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago.
“The knee is still attached; it’s moving forward and I’m lifting the leg,” joked Stenson, who has finished outside the top 30 only once in his last ten visits to Emirates Golf Club.
“It’s a great week. I made Dubai my home for almost ten years. It’s always nice to be back with a lot of familiar faces, a familiar golf course, which I have some great memories from, especially the win back in 2007, of course.”
“The course is in good shape. The putting green was excellent. I expect to have a good championship on a great golf course.”
“The previous two times I missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, which is never good fun, so I was very pleased with the week, both on the results side and how I played.
“I’m happy with the way things were going early doors and hopefully I can bring that into this week, too.”
Another player hoping to prove the Majlis course suits his game is Stenson’s Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irishman turned around a disappointing 2015 campaign with a win in Mexico in November, and is now hoping to build on last season’s top-ten finish here.
“It’s great to be back here,” he said. “I love coming to this golf course.
“I think it’s evolved a lot over the years; the golf course really has changed. This is the first time we’ve been playing with these run-offs, and I’ve never seen the golf course as fast and as fiery as it is this year.
“I think it’s a great set-up for my type of game. You really have to drive the ball well here to keep it in the fairway and give yourself a chance to attack these greens, which are about as good as you’ll ever see.”
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is backed by OMEGA as the title sponsor and Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC as sponsor. The co-sponsors are: CNN, Drydocks World, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, JA Resorts and Hotels, Mercedes-Benz and wasl, while Dubai Duty Free, Neocasa Interiors and Motivate Publishing are the Patrons in golf in DUBAi’s drive to showcase the emirate’s vibrant golfing scene to a worldwide audience.