As if participating in the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic isn’t enough of a thrill, gifted UAE-based hotshot Rayhan Thomas got the opportunity to have a practice round with no other than Rory McIlroy – who is the favourite to lift the title for a third time this weekend. 

The 28 year old won his first ever European Title at Emirates Golf Club in 2009 so has a vast amount of fond memories and invaluable golfing expertise to pass on to the 18 year old Indian.

“I’ve known Rayhan (Thomas) for quite a while now from practicing here at Emirates,” said the Northern Irishman. “He has really come on so well since he was 13-14. Everyone was talking about him back then so it’s been great to see how he has progressed.”

He does all the right things, he practices hard, works on the right things on and off the course and has a really good attitude. It’s great to see him get opportunities like this to play with some of the world’s best players. I like to try and play with the younger generation that are coming through at various events whether that be here with Rayahn or other tournaments around the world because it doesn’t feel that long ago that the guys on the Tour were doing the same thing for me and I feel it really helped me a lot so it’s easy for me to say to Rayhan ‘lets go and play nine holes’.”

Thomas unforgettably made the sporting headlines in 2017 when he shot nine consecutive birdies on the Mena Tour to equal the world record for an Official World Golf Rankings event. Rory is a big fan of his game but knows that skill alone isn’t enough to get you to the top.

“His game looks in really good shape and he obviously knows this place very well, as long as he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself and plays his game he should have a good week,” McIlroy added. We were both just having a practice round before the tournament starts but obviously if Rayhan wants to ask me any questions he is more than welcome and I’ll very happily answer them but I like to let him get on and do his thing and if he wants to observe me or ask any questions then that’s totally fine.

There were plenty of fans, friends and family watching the practice round with interest of what Rory had to say to Rayhan but he knows from experience that offloading lots of advice doesn’t always benefit players.

“I don’t want to impose or offer any advice as some players don’t like that. When I used to go round with the big players such as Darren Clarke I just wanted to enjoy the experience, I didn’t really want them to offer up any advice. I just enjoyed observing them and how they would play different shots and how they would prepare for a tournament.”

Rory has known Rayhan for a while now but didn’t realise how young he was when they first met!

“I remember seeing Rayhan in 2010 at the Els Club when he was nine but he looked about 14! He was working up there with Justin and everyone was talking about how great he was going to be and he always seemed to be a really nice kid with a really good attitude and work ethic. He has definitely got his head screwed on and was brought up the right way. As long as he keeps enjoying his golf I think he can go a long way,” said the multiple Major winner.

In last year’s Desert Classic, Thomas made the cut and finished in tied-60th, this is another opportunity for him to shock his critics and mix it with some of golf’s finest players around as his reputation grows and flourishes on the golfing spectrum.

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