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Rory McIlroy says he hopes he can inspire like Tiger Woods at the Dubai Desert Classic

On his Dubai debut in 2006, McIlroy took the opportunity to follow Woods around the course after completing his own round; Watch the Dubai Desert Classic live on Thursday from 4am on Sky Sports Golf

Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods
Image: Rory McIlroy has recalled how Tiger Woods inspired him in Dubai

Rory McIlroy is hoping to provide young fans with the same inspiration he took from watching Tiger Woods on his Dubai Desert Classic debut in 2006, as the Northern Irishman seeks a third title at the Emirates Golf Club this week.

After playing his opening round on his debut at the tournament as a 16-year-old, McIlroy returned to the course in the afternoon, armed with a camera, to watch his idol Woods.

Sixteen years on, and with the 2009 and 2015 titles under his belt - along with six other top-10 finishes at the tournament - McIlroy is hoping to recreate some of the magic Woods provided that day.

"I had a better view than most, being able to get inside the ropes and have a media credential," McIlroy said ahead of the tournament, which begins on Thursday, live on Sky Sports.

Image: Woods returned to action in December having been injured in a car crash last February

"Tiger hit a five-iron out of the right rough on 10 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.

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

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McIlroy jumped up the leaderboard during the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a stunning hole-out eagle at the par-four ninth.

McIlroy had to birdie the 18th to make the halfway cut on a mark of three over par last week in Abu Dhabi, but he surged through the field over the weekend and was just two shots off the lead after 13 holes of the final round.

Three bogeys in the last five holes meant the 32-year-old had to settle for a tie for 12th as former Ryder Cup partner Thomas Pieters went on to lift the title.

"It was a good weekend, a disappointing finish on Sunday but I felt some of the golf I played over the weekend was very encouraging," McIlroy added.

"I guess (I need) 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."

'Maguire seems like a great leader'

Also in Dubai is Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, who played in the tournament's Pro-Am event on Wednesday, with the Premier League paused for its winter break.

McIlroy, an avid United supporter, shared his admiration for Maguire, but revealed he wouldn't trade places with the England defender - or several other athletes - because he enjoys being his own boss.

"I saw him on the range this morning," McIlroy said of Maguire. "I was rushing to the first tee because I was late so I didn't get a chance to see him hit any. It's great to have those lads out here.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire played in the Dubai Dessert Classic Pro-Am (Getty)
Image: Manchester United captain Harry Maguire played in the Dubai Desert Classic Pro-Am

"Seems like a great leader. Seems like a great motivator, the sort of personality that you would want to captain a football team and someone you look up to. He's actually a lot bigger than I realised standing besides him. Like standing next to him, he's a big lad. I wouldn't want to get tackled by him, that's for sure."

Also at the tournament is McLaren formula one driver Lando Norris, who McIlroy mentioned when weighing up if there were any athletes he would want to do a job swap with.

"I just saw Lando there coming off 18," McIlroy said. "F1 driver wouldn't be too bad. Would be exhilarating for a day at least. Might kill myself in the process.

"I don't know, I think about that quite a lot and I think about where I want to trade places with anyone in the sporting world. I think the thing that I value so much about being a golfer is you're your own boss, you turn up wherever you want to, basically and you make your own decisions. The responsibility is solely on you, which I think is a nice thing.

"I think because I've been a golfer for so long, I can't imagine being anything else. So I sort of like the fact that as I said, like I'm my own boss, I make the decisions and I think if I try to slot into like a team environment or something where you're maybe not in control of every action that you take, I think I'd struggle with that a bit."

Watch the Dubai Desert Classic this week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Groups on Thursday from 4am on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 7.30am.

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