Rory McIlroy headlines Hero Dubai Desert Classic: World No 1 chasing winning start to 2023
Rory McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009 and 2015; World No 1 makes first appearance since the DP World Tour Championship in November; Watch the Rolex Series event throughout the week live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 25/01/23 3:44pm
World No 1 Rory McIlroy makes his first appearance of the year at a familiar success spot this week at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, live on Sky Sports.
McIlroy headlines a strong field for the second of back-to-back Rolex Series events, with Ryder Cup team-mates Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton among those in action along with several players hoping to feature for Team Europe this September in Rome.
The Northern Irishman enjoyed one of the best years of his career to date during 2022, where he posted top-eight finishes in all four majors, won three times on the PGA Tour and won both the FedExCup and the DP World Tour's Order of Merit.
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McIlroy makes his first competitive start since finish fourth in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship in November, where he will be looking to build on a memorable campaign and make a winning start to the year.
McIlroy's record at the Dubai Desert Classic
McIlroy was a 16-year-old amateur when he first appeared at the Emirates Golf Club in 2006 and used the event for his first start as a professional the following year, with the Northern Irishman's first DP World Tour title coming via a one-shot victory over Justin Rose in the 2009 edition.
A three-stroke victory in 2015 was the first of four worldwide victories that season, with McIlroy enjoy nine top-10 finishes in his previous 12 appearances at what is now a Rolex Series event.
McIlroy is now looking to join Ernie Els as the only three-time winner of the Dubai Desert Classic, a year on from finishing third in the event after a frustrating final day.
What went wrong for McIlroy last year?
Viktor Hovland defeated Richard Bland in a play-off last year to snatch a remarkable victory, as McIlroy missed out after a costly finish to his final round.
Hovland overcame a six-stroke deficit on a thrilling final day at Emirates Golf Club, playing his last three holes in four under to close a round-of-the-day 66 to set the clubhouse target at 12 under, while Bland birdied his final two holes to join the Norwegian at the top of the leaderboard.
McIlroy had the tournament in his hands over the closing holes but needed an incredible save at the par-four 17th to remain tied for the lead going into the final hole, where he found the water with his approach into the par-five.
McIlroy could still have salvaged a spot in the play-off by getting up and down from the drop zone, although he two-putted for a closing bogey to end the week in third spot and miss out on a first win of the year.
Dubai begins Masters build-up for McIlroy
McIlroy will take a week off after Dubai before teeing it up at the WM Phoenix Open from February 9-12, his first PGA Tour appearance since successfully defending his title at the CJ Cup in October.
The event is one of the PGA Tour's elevated events, offering a $20m purse and guaranteed appearances from the world's top players, with McIlroy hoping to build on the tied-13th finish he enjoyed on his tournament debut in 2021.
McIlroy has committed to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club the following week, where Tiger Woods hosts, with the Northern Irishman likely to feature at the Arnold Palmer Invitational from March 2-5 ahead of The Players - the PGA Tour's flagship event - at TPC Sawgrass from March 9-12.
The Northern Irishman skipped the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last year in favour of playing the Valero Texas Open, where he missed the cut, with McIlroy yet to announce his schedule in the weeks leading up to The Masters from April 6-9.
McIlroy will arrive at Augusta National as the likely favourite to win the opening men's major of the year, with the 33-year-old looking to go one better than last year's runner-up finish and find the fifth major title that would complete the elusive career Grand Slam.
Watch the Hero Dubai Desert Classic throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Groups on Thursday at 3.30am on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 7am.