After a four-month break from competition, Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is fit and ready to embark on one of the busiest seasons of his professional career as he bids to 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.
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 Ulsterman would love nothing more than to right that on 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.
Speaking ahead of his opening tournament of the season, McIlroy said:
“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.”
Defending champion Tommy 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.