Rory McIlroy buoyed by Abu Dhabi return as he shares third
Last Updated: 21/01/18 4:58pm
Rory McIlroy is looking forward to moving on to Dubai and the rest of the season after his encouraging comeback in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The former world No 1 finished joint-third with Matt Fitzpatrick at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club as he returned to competitive action for the first time since October.
He ended the tournament with a satisfactory round of two-under 70, but was never quite in contention for the title as Tommy Fleetwood produced a storming finish to pip Ross Fisher by two shots, with the Northern Irishman four off the pace.
McIlroy is now planning to have a day off on Monday before preparing for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club - a tournament he won in 2009 and 2015 - which starts on Thursday.
"I'm really happy with how I played," said the 28-year-old.
"It could have been a little bit better today. I was a little bit scrappy but the conditions sort of, I felt like shooting anything in the 60s would have been a good score. I didn't quite do that; I shot 70.
"Overall, I'm really happy how I played this week. My game is in really good shape and I saw some really, really positive signs. So I'm looking forward to next week in Dubai and obviously looking forward to the rest of the season.
"If I can play the same way I played this week, I'll have a good chance again next week.
"It's just a matter of dusting myself off and sort of looking back on this week, I think it's been a huge success for me, even though I didn't win today. I felt like I got a lot out of it, and yeah, I'm excited to get back at it again next week."
McIlroy was also quick to praise Fleetwood after the European No 1 carried on from where he left off last year by retaining the title.
"It's incredible," said the four-time major winner. "He had a great year last year, won the Race to Dubai, No 1 in Europe and then to just keep going.
"This week, defending champion, to put that round of golf together out there today, I mean, 65 in those conditions is seriously impressive. And six under, back nine when he needed to.
"He's a great addition to the world of golf, a great addition to the European Tour and will be a great addition to the Ryder Cup team in September."
World No 1 Dustin Johnson also closed with a 70 to finish in a tie for ninth place on 14 under, but the American never really troubled the top of the leaderboard in Abu Dhabi, despite shooting a 64 on Friday.
"The week was okay," he said. "You know, had one good day on Friday, but other than that, it was just okay. A little bit off. Just made a few too many mistakes, really.
"But all in all, it was a solid week I guess. I just didn't have my best stuff, that's for sure."
Johnson will now take a break before returning to the PGA Tour.
"I feel like my game is in good shape," he added. "I've got two weeks off, so I'll get a little practice in and get ready for Pebble [Beach]. I have Pebble and LA, my next two events. So get ready for those.
"Both tournaments, I really like the golf courses and I really like the event, so definitely looking forward to that."