Rory McIlroy hopes to draw on some fond memories at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as he prepares to return to the scene of his maiden European Tour title.
The 22 year old, who first appeared in the event as a 16 year old back in 2006, admits the week at Emirates Golf Club is one of his favourites on the golfing calendar.
“I've spent a good bit of time here in the past, and after playing Abu Dhabi, spent the week here practising, working on my game and looking forward to this week,” said the US Open Champion.
“This is my seventh Dubai Desert Classic, which I've played every year since 2006. I remember what I shot (in 2006) - I shot two 72s and missed the cut by one.
“I remember I played on Thursday morning, and then on Thursday afternoon Tiger was playing. I came out in the afternoon and took one of the photographer's cameras off of him and was able to follow inside the ropes, which was pretty cool.
“That was my first real taste of Dubai, and I've been coming back every year since.
“I’m looking forward to it. I've obviously got good memories from here, winning in 2009 and being in contention the last couple of years, and feel like it's a golf course that I play well on, and hopefully I can play well on it again.”
McIlroy kicked off his season with a runner-up finish behind Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi, but the Northern Irishman feels there is more to come.
“I didn't feel like I played all that well in Abu Dhabi,” he added. “I scored very well and was able to get myself into contention, which was great. I felt like I needed to work on a couple of things last week, which I did, and I feel like they're getting better.
“It's always nice to start off the season like that. I feel like I had a chance to win and did quite good, but hopefully it would be great to get a win under my belt pretty early this season, try and win here, a place that I've won at before, and of course, I really enjoy.
“It's definitely one of my favourite ones to come back to. Just the whole atmosphere. Knowing the golf course so well, the memories obviously. It's definitely up there - outside of the Majors, it would definitely be in the top three or four.
“The golf course is in fantastic condition. I think every year we come back here it's in superb shape. I think that's why a lot of guys love coming back here is the course is great. The facilities are fantastic and we get treated really well.
“I love coming back here, and 12 months from this time last year to now it's been pretty good.”
Having watched Tiger Woods in 2006, McIlroy played three rounds with the former World Number One in Abu Dhabi.
“We played together three out of the four rounds in Abu Dhabi, and it was good fun,” he continued. “I felt like I'd spent a little bit of time with him before that, but not as much as I did then. It was great, it was nice to play with him, and felt pretty relaxed out there in his company, and we chatted the whole way around.”