McIlroy ready to roar again in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, January 17: After a four-month break from competition, Rory McIlroy has declared himself fit and ready to embark on one of the busiest seasons of his professional career as he bids to finally banish the injuries which effectively ruined his 2017 season and get back to the very top of golf’s world order.
That quest begins on Thursday in the company of World Number One Dustin Johnson and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
McIlroy has starred at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on nine occasions in his glittering career and boasts an impressive record of seven top-five finishes but he has yet to hold the Falcon Trophy aloft.
The Northern Irishman would love nothing more than to right that this coming Sunday against a truly world-class field including the likes of Johnson, Paul Casey, Fleetwood Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson as the European Tour makes its traditional winter stop in the Middle East.
Defending champion Fleetwood will be looking to not only emulate his thrilling victory of 12 months ago in Abu Dhabi (when he held off the challenge of Johnson in the final round), but also his remarkable 2017 season as a whole which saw him crowned the Race to Dubai champion.
Fleetwood’s achievements of last year were bestowed the ultimate honour during his media conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday afternoon when he was presented with the 2017 Seve Ballesteros Award – the Players’ Player of the Year Award – by European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley and Tournament Committee Chairman David Howell.
Rory McIlroy: I’m excited to be back at a golf tournament. It’s been a while. The last few months have been really nice just to concentrate on a few things I needed to take care of in terms of getting myself fit and healthy to come back and sharpen up a few things in my game.
“Obviously this is the first real test of getting back and seeing how I am. So I’m looking forward to just getting out there and seeing how I perform when I need to. It’s a place I’ve done well before and obviously a golf course I know well, so it’s a comfortable place to come back and make a fresh start of the year..
“I’d love to win again. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than winning a golf tournament. But I don’t feel like it’s that far away.
“I’ve practised and I’ve played, not competitively in a proper tournament, but I’ve shot some really good scores over the past few weeks. It’s different doing that to being out here on Thursday and really having a card in your hand. But from everything that I’ve seen in practise and playing over the past few weeks, there’s no reason to think that it’s not that far away.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I am starting the year in a very different place to last year. I’ve said it a few times, but that it was kind of a clean slate for me. I had worked really hard half of the year before, and then by the time I got to this event, the goals for the year were just, I wanted to win a tournament again and pretty much anything other than that was kind of a bonus.
“I won last year and it kind of came out of nowhere. I haven’t done much before over the winter, and it was a course where I had not had much success on and found myself up there on the last day. It just kind of took us all a little bit by surprise, and it was a massive accumulation of so much hard work and coming back and getting my game back together. I have so many great memories from that week, and it clearly started a great run for me throughout the year.
“I think I owe a lot to the tournament and the way I played. Dustin Johnson was coming down the stretch, as well last year, but I think it gave me a lot of confidence to move on in the year and then for whatever else I achieved.”