Rory McIlroy looking to extend proud record in Dubai
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 27/12/16 2:42pm
Rory McIlroy will be drawing on memories of past successes when he takes on a strong field at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in early February.
McIlroy will make his first appearance of 2017 at the star-studded Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which features three of last season's major champions in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, and he will then enjoy a week off before heading to The Emirates for the final event of the European Tour's Desert Swing.
The world No 2 has been a regular in Dubai since making his first cut on Tour as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007, and he collected his maiden professional victory in the tournament two years later following a thrilling final-round battle with Stenson and Justin Rose.
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McIlroy added a second win in 2015 and has not finished out of the top 10 in his last seven starts in the event, and he is confident of another strong performance on one of his favourite courses this season.
"To think the tournament is now in its 28th year, just older than I am, is testimony to its enduring strength," said McIlroy, who is also a two-time winner of the DP World Tour Championship at the neighbouring Jumeirah Golf Estates.
"I have great memories of this course and tournament. I made the cut here for the first time in a European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2007 and it was here I secured my first professional win two years later.
"I will always cherish those important moments in the early part of my career. That first win was a real stepping-stone for me, helping my confidence and leading to the successes that followed. My great relationship with Dubai was pretty much set in stone from then."
The four-time major champion finished four shots behind Willett in Dubai last season, while Stenson also has a proud record at The Emirates and lifted the title on McIlroy's debut in 2007.
"It feels nice to get back to a golf course where you have played a number of times, said Stenson, whose record-breaking Open victory was the outstanding highlight of a 2016 campaign in which he was crowned European No 1 for the second time.
"Playing well in front of family, friends and supporters always gives you that extra bit of satisfaction. I am really looking forward to playing in Dubai.
"It would be great fun to win in Dubai again, but they have once again assembled a strong field and nothing can be taken for granted. We will have to see how things unfold."