DUBAI – Rory McIlroy felt at home in Dubai and said that he would be really disappointed if he left without a win, come Sunday.
The world No. 2 embarks on his title defense in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday, and the Majlis Course of the Emirates Golf Club holds a special place in his heart.
It was here as a 17-year-old that McIlroy made his first cut on the European Tour in 2007. He had to forego the prize money because of his amateur status.
The picturesque and unique desert course was also the scene of his first professional win in 2009, and at 19 years and 273 days, he became the event's youngest winner.
The event and the course are to the 26-year-old's liking, with top-10 finishes in his last six visits to the desert. He is also 81 under par in those six appearances where he has won it in 2009, sixth in 2010, 10th in 2011, fifth in 2012, ninth in 2014 and winning it again last year.
As he eyes a record-equaling third Desert Classic, which would bring him level with the great Ernie Els, the only man to have won it thrice, the Ulsterman said that it brings out the best in him.
"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," McIlroy said on Wednesday.
"I'm sort of going for a third win in Dubai. It seems to bring out my best golf. And I've got great memories from the Emirates here, making my first cut, winning my first tournament. I think this is my 10th year since I started coming here and playing in the tournament, twice as an amateur. So a lot of great memories and get a lot of support here, so I'm obviously looking forward to the week," he added.
And with a pretty good track record here, McIlroy said it would be disappointing if he couldn't win it on Sunday.
"It would be, of course," the 26-year said. "Leaving any tournament without a win is sort of disappointing, but you try to put a positive spin on it. I think as golfers, that's what we usually do.
"We are disappointed for a bit and then we realize, we try to put positive spins on it, and the nice thing is there's always a next week in golf. But if I was leaving hereon Sunday night and didn't win, I'd be disappointed," added McIlroy.
And McIlroy said he had worked on his game since Abu Dhabi and felt in fine shape. He had finished tied third along with Henrik Stenson in January's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which forms part of the "Desert Swing" on the European Tour.
"The game's good. 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 obviously I want to try and win again here, win for the third time to join Ernie as the only people to win three times. The game feels good and I'm looking forward to getting started," he said.
McIlroy is also gunning a record fifth European Tour in the Middle East. He is tied on four wins with Stenson for the most European Tour titles in the Middle East.
The duo have been paired together for the first two rounds. McIlroy and Stenson will tee off from the first alongside Louis Oosthuizen.
This article was written by James Jose from Khaleej Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.