Rory McIlroy says his game is good shape to mount a serious defence of the Dubai Desert Classic title he won last year


Rory McIlroy is keen to continue his “incredible journey” in Dubai by winning a record-breaking fourth title at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

The world no.2 claimed a maiden Rolex Series triumph at this event 12 months ago, matching Ernie Els’ record of three victories at Emirates Golf Club. That took the Northern Irishman’s tally of wins in the Emirate to five, having made his debut at this event in 2006 and claimed his first victory three years later. The 34-year-old also has two wins at the DP World Tour Championship and only narrowly missed out on a victory at last week’s Dubai Invitational.

With that record, it is no surprise the former Dubai resident feels right at home, and he is delighted to be back in a place and on a layout that has played a big part in his career. McIlroy followed his win here last season with another Rolex series victory at the Genesis Scottish Open, adding to his four Major Championships, three World Golf Championships and six national opens.

Speaking ahead of the event, which gets under way on Thursday, McIlroy said: “I feel like this tournament has been a sort of staple in my life for at least half of it. I’ve been coming back to this tournament for 18 years, so over half my life. So wonderful memories of Dubai. I feel like it was a place that gave me one of my first opportunities to come out and play on this tour. My first sponsor was from here. My first win was here. A lot of firsts for me in this region, so it’s been an incredible journey and I’m always excited to get back to Dubai with the success that I’ve had here on this golf course and over at Jumeirah Golf Estates too at the end of the year. I’ve always liked kicking my year off here. It’s a familiar place for me and I feel like if I can play well here, it’s a really good sort of stepping stone to the rest of the year.”


He added: “I feel like I’ve had a three-month off-season, basically. You’re going to make some of those mistakes early on, and it’s good to play an event like last week [The Dubai Inviational] where you can learn from them and try to put those things right this week. I would have loved to have won last week, but even with all those mistakes I made, the fact that I still had a one-shot lead going down the last says to me that my game is in really good shape, and I should be quite excited for this week.

“Majors are really, really important in this game, but it’s not the only thing that matters in my mind. I would love to get my hands on another one, and I think mostly because I have done everything else there is to do in the game since I last won a Major championship. So to me, it’s like the last step on this journey that I’ve been on this last few years is just getting my hands on another Major trophy.”

European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald, reigning Open Champion Brian Harman and Major Champions Padráig Harrington, Francesco Molinari and Adam Scott all join McIlroy in the 35th anniversary edition of the tournament. Scott had a top-ten finish in 2022 on his first return to this event since 2002, while American Harman is excited for a tough test of golf when he makes his Dubai debut tomorrow morning alongside Adrian Meronk and Dan Bradbury.

Open Champion Brian Harman will be making his debut in the Dubai Desert Classic this week

For the list of tee times for rounds 1 and 2, click here