After a whirlwind couple of days in the Gulf, World Number One Rory McIlroy is ready to get his 2013 campaign underway at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
It will be the first outing of 2013 for last year’s Race to Dubai Champion as well as his first event with new clubs and equipment after his unveiling as a Nike player yesterday, and the Northern Irishman is keen to celebrate with a win after several close calls over the National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
In five appearances he has not finished worse than 11th and has finished been runner-up the last two years, denied by Martin Kaymer in 2011 and Robert Rock last year. Indeed his last 19 rounds have all been par or better with 15 of them in the 60s.
“It's an exciting time and I’m very happy with everything that's going on and just looking forward to getting out on the golf course and putting the new clubs and new equipment into play,” said McIlroy.
“It's a place I have done well. I think one problem for me the last few years has been Martin Kaymer. He's played really well around here and won it a couple of times, three times I think and I always came up second best. It would be nice to go one better this week and obviously that's what I'm aiming for.”
McIlroy’s first tournament test with the new clubs and ball will begin at 7.40am on Thursday in the company of World Number Two Tiger Woods and three-time champion Kaymer. It was here last year that McIlroy’s relationship with Woods blossomed as they played the first three rounds together and the top two players in the world are full of admiration for each other.
McIlroy said: “It's great to just spend time with him and pick his brain about a few things if I feel I need to, but it's a relationship that's definitely based on respect, because he's been a huge hero of mine growing up and he's done some incredible things in golf. And I think he respects me for what I've done on the golf course.”
Likewise, Woods is clearly impressed by McIlroy’s game. “If you look at the way he hits it, he drives the ball beautifully, and he’s beautiful iron player and when he's got that putter rolling, he makes a lot of putts,” he said.
“He's won a couple major championships by large margins, so he has all the tools, and he's only going to refine them. He's only going to get better at it, and it will be good to see.”
Woods is also beginning his season in the first event of The European Tour’s Desert Swing and after three wins last year, and a full season under his belt for the first time since 2007, the 14-time Major Champion is looking forward to the year ahead.
“I was excited about being able to play a full schedule last year,” he said “I had not played a full schedule in a very long time. So for me it was a big year in that regard; that I was able to play an entire year. Consequently, I won a few times, and really excited about going into this year.”