McIlory targets big year as he gets under way at Dubai Invitational

Reigning Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy is as ambitious as ever as he returns to the Emirate to start his 18th full DP World Tour season at the new Dubai Invitational, the first event on The International Swing. 

Since turning professional in 2007, the World Number Two has become one of the greatest players of his generation, with four Major Championships, 41 career titles and five Ryder Cup victories.

Last year the 34-year-old won two Rolex Series titles as he went on to claim the European Number One crown for a fifth time.

After seven top tens in his last eight starts at Majors, the Northern Irishman is hoping he can convert his consistent performances into winning another of the “big ones”, but first he is aiming to start 2024 on a high note this week when he tees it up at Dubai Creek Resort.

“I’m excited for the year,” said McIlory.

“This is my 18th full season on tour, which is mad to think about. But I’m as excited as I was for the first one. I think every new year – new year, new opportunities, new goals.

“My consistency’s really been there over the last couple years, without winning one of the big ones (the Majors), and I think that’s the final piece of the puzzle for me.

“I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks. This is a different way to start the season than previous ones. Obviously, we played Abu Dhabi and then Dubai. Abu Dhabi is now at the end of the year, which is exciting, because it’s another big tournament at the end of the season that could decide the season-long race.

His Ryder Cup team mate and fellow Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood also gets the new year up and running at the inaugural Dubai Invitational, which sees 60 professional players competing in a 72-hole strokeplay tournament, which is played concurrently with a three-day team Pro-Am (Thurs-Sat), with Sunday featuring professionals only.

Dubai resident Fleetwood is hoping he can discover “that missing piece” in 2024, after closing out last season with a runner-up finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

Since the Genesis Scottish Open last summer, the Englishman, whose last title came at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2022, has recorded six top tens in his last ten starts worldwide and missed just one cut.

During that period, the World Number 15 claimed the winning point that saw Team Europe regain the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome last September.

“I played really well last year, particularly from like early summer onwards, late spring,” said Fleetwood.

“I think my consistency levels were great. Like most people in the world of golf, I don’t win any where near as much as I would like, so you’re always looking to that missing piece that would lead to more victories.

“But overall in terms of the depths of my performances throughout the year, I was very, very pleased, and to finish the World Ranking in a high place again and knocking on the door of that top 10 and hopefully going further feels great.”

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