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Abu Dhabi golf: Rory McIlroy leads high-quality field

posted on 15/01/2015: 30725 views

Rory McIlroy, on his flight from Dublin to the Middle East, has already penned down a seven-point wish list to dominate the 2015 season. Though the world No. 1 golfer chose to keep the list close to his heart, one can sure that conquering the Abu Dhabi golf course will be on his agenda, having come close to winning here thrice.

This is his eighth appearance on the trot at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and McIlroy expressed his keenness to get that record straight by lifting the Falcon Trophy this weekend.

"I definitely feel like I've got unfinished business here. Hopefully, in the not too distant future I can win this event, because I've come close, and for it to be the eighth year, I feel like I've been patient enough. So hopefully, this is the year,” said McIlroy, who has had two runner-up finishes at the high profile event.

McIlroy has finished second at the capital course thrice in the last four years and in 2014, though he was in supreme touch, he undid all the good work after picking up a daft two-shot penalty during the third round and eventually lost out to Pablo Larrazábal. A couple of years before, he let the title slip by pocketing a needless two-shot penalty for brushing away sand that was not on the putting surface and again went on to miss out by a single stroke.

"I think one of the goals this week is just to have no penalty shots when I don't need them, and see where I end up at the end of the week,” added McIlroy, who had a tremendous 2014 season lifting two Majors — the British Open and the US PGA.

Standing in 25-year-old Northern Irishman's way will be World No 2 and ranked number one Henrik Stenson, who will head the 126-player draw with world number five Justin Rose and three-time champion Martin Kaymer also among the favourites for the top honours.

Kaymer has been clearly the Sultan of Abu Dhabi Golf Course. He won the tournament on his debut Tour in 2008 before adding two more to his tally in 2010 and 2011. Should he win this time round, he would join an elite group of players like Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros who have won the same official European Tour Tournaments four or more times.

"For me, it became a little bit more complicated. They have changed a few greens, a few tee boxes. So therefore, you know, it's not a given that I will win this. A lot of people, they said that, oh, we have to beat only you this week. No, it's not only me. There are a few other guys out there. It's always an open competition,” said the German, who also holds the record for the championship's largest winning margin of eight strokes.

Stenson has been in exceptional form in the last two seasons with four top-four finishes in Majors, including back-to-back third place efforts at the PGA. He has been the part of all the previous nine editions here and has been runner-up in the inaugural edition in 2006.

"It's a great golf course, and I've been second twice, particularly the first year we had in 2006, I think I lost out by a shot to Chris DiMarco in the end. Yeah, it's the one missing, and I would like to have it, and I probably fancy my chances a little bit more this time around. Game feels in pretty good shape at this time,” said the 38-yr-old Swede.

Defending champion Larrazabal is also keen to make his presence felt but was of the view that he was not in the best of shape to defend the title.

"This season has been different. I had a laser operation; I had to take time off golf and fitness and everything. I come this week with very low expectations. I've been practising for only three weeks. You know, I'm a player that has to be prepared to perform, and for some of the players, three weeks are enough,” said Larrazabal, whose win here was the third on the European Tour. – Gulf News -


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