x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Rory McIlroy getting more serious on the golf course

At 22, Rory McIlroy says he is learning to be more mature on the golf course, which he believes will lead to more titles.

Rory McIlroy jokes with his caddie during yesterday's pro-am tournament at the Emirates Golf Club. Mike Young / The National
Rory McIlroy jokes with his caddie during yesterday's pro-am tournament at the Emirates Golf Club. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // Rory McIlroy's youthful exuberance in his early years as a golf professional may have prevented him from adding to his solitary European Tour victory in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic, he said yesterday.

McIlroy, who has also won one title on the US PGA Tour, said he is maturing as he nears his 22nd birthday and believes greater rewards are on the way. Not that he has any regrets after a less-than-productive two years since his breakthrough on the Majlis Course.

"Golf is meant to be fun and, when you are young, you want to have fun," said McIlroy, a Northern Irishman who has maintained a world ranking of seven in spite of his shortage of titles.

His cavalier era is about to be replaced by a more thoughtful phase, he said. "Basically, I'm an instinctive player and, whenever I saw a flag, I tended to go for it, no matter where I was on the golf course," he said.

"Now it is a case of working out a better strategy and thinking about it a little more. Sometimes it might be best to play away from pins - knowing when to be aggressive and knowing when it is better just to go for the middle of the green."

McIlroy, who finished second to Martin Kaymer in Abu Dhabi last month, is otherwise happy with his situation at the start of another campaign. "I'm disappointed that I haven't won more because it feels as though I should have," he said.

"But I'm doing OK. I usually finish up there pretty high. I have been fairly consistent which is pleasing. I had a couple of thirds in majors last year, so I'm beating most of the field when I go out there. There are just a couple of guys that I need to start beating more often."

Achieving that objective might earn McIlroy a place in future threesomes like the one involving Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Tiger Woods over the first two days of the Dubai Desert Classic.

"It is great for the tournament to have a grouping of that quality and I would love to be part of something like that one day," said McIlroy, who is competing in this event for the sixth time.

"I'm quite happy that I'm on the other side of the draw [a 7.50am start with Edoardo Molinari and Rhys Davies] so I can watch a bit of it on television.

"With the main focus on those three, maybe I can come in under the radar and post a couple of good rounds early on to get myself into a strong position."



Coverage of the Dubai Desert Classic