World Number One Rory McIlroy insists he has unfinished business at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic when he gets his 2023 DP World Tour campaign under way this week.
Emirates Golf Club has been a happy hunting ground for the Northern Irishman, who won this event in 2009 and 2015, and has seven further top tens to his name, but his final round finish 12 months ago was frustrating for the reigning Race to Dubai Champion.
The four-time Major Champion had been firmly in contention on the back nine of the Rolex Series tournament before finding the water at the 18th to surrender a bogey and miss out on a play-off by one shot.
The 33-year-old bounced back to top the season-long Rankings, lifting the Harry Vardon Trophy on his last visit to Dubai in November, and is hoping for a strong performance in his first event of the year.
Meanwhile Tommy Fleetwood is relishing home comforts this week as he looks to build on a host of impressive recent performances.
The Englishman, who now lives in Dubai, has been in fine form in recent months, winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November and finishing in the top five at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship a week later.
He kicked off the new year by captaining Great Britain and Ireland at the Hero Cup before putting in a solid display at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 32-year-old has a good record at Emirates Golf Club, finishing in the top 20 in each of his last five appearances at this event, and he is happy to be back there this week.
Rory McIlroy: “It’s really nice to be back. I’ve had a lot of great memories here and success over the years at the Emirates but feel like I have a little bit of unfinished business with how the tournament ended for me last year here.
“It wasn’t quite the way I wanted to finish it off. But I went on from that week and played really well and had a great year.
“It’s been nice to try to take a little bit of time away, and try to sort of distance myself from the game of golf for at least a month or two, and sort of recharge and reset and try to start 2023 with renewed optimism and a sort of full tank and ready to go.
“I’m sure there will be a little bit of rust to start the week but hopefully I can shake that off. I’ve got a great record here, so I have great confidence in that.
“I first played this tournament in 2006. So I’ve been coming here for a long time, 17 years. I’ve got a level of comfort here. I like starting my year here. I have a lot of friends. I called this place home for four years. I like it. I get great support here with the crowds that come out.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I think it’s a rare opportunity and a rare thing for pretty much every one of us that we get to spend a week at home while playing in a tournament.
“I just love sleeping in my own bed. I love doing things in my own house. So it’s a bonus this week, absolutely is.
“Just kind of makes things that little bit more novel and comfortable, and no matter how much travelling you do, there’s nothing quite like being in your own home.
“I think Emirates Golf Club has become an iconic venue, an iconic tournament and I was just saying before, I’m definitely of an age where I got to watch it a lot on TV as the tournament was building and building and having champions like Monty and Tiger and Ernie or people like that.
“I’ve sort of grown up in that generation where this is like a dream tournament to play in and win. It’s always been great coming back, and kind of a home event for me as well.
“It’s always nice coming here and seeing everybody, how hungry they are to start the season off well and playing a great venue.”