Rory McIlroy has spoken to Time Out Dubai about his relief at getting back to tournament golf, with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic returning to town this week.
Taking place between Thursday January 25 and Sunday 28 at Emirates Golf Club, some of the world’s finest golfers will be battling it out for an estimated Dhs11 million (US$3 million) purse, and to dethrone the defending champion from 2017, Sergio Garcia.
One of the challengers leading the charge is former world number one and two-time Dubai Desert Classic champion Rory McIlroy. Having taken a few months away from tournament golf towards the end of 2017, owing to a problematic rib injury, McIlroy says his time out of the game has been spent wisely, and he sounds like he’s ready to grab 2018 by the scruff of the neck.
“I’m feeling good, I’m really excited and haven’t been feeling like that for a while, so I’m looking forward to it,” McIlroy tells Time Out Dubai. “It’s actually been pretty nice to get away from tournament golf for a bit. I’ve been a pro for ten years so to take just a few months off and recalibrate everything and get ready for the next few years, while allowing myself a bit of a break to feel rejuvenated.”
A Dubai resident, McIlroy is no stranger to the emirate’s top golf courses, like Emirates Golf Club and Jumeirah Golf Estates. Like many football teams escaping the cold European winters for the warmer climes of the UAE in January, McIlroy says there’s no better way to prepare for a New Year than by kicking it off in Dubai.
“Practising here is what I’ve done every year since I’ve been a pro. I come out to get ready for the season, and obviously we’ve got some tournaments like the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It’s always a great place to start the year and I always enjoy it and have a lot of fun.”
Coming to town alongside McIlroy is Irish popstar Niall Horan, formerly of One Direction. Horan is here to play in the ProAm tournament at the DDC alongside his mate McIlroy, with a couple of extra goodies chucked in for good measure.
One lucky ticket holder for the tournament will bag what is literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will blow the tiny mind out of pretty much every golf fan – a round of golf with Rory McIlroy, Niall Horan and WPGA newcomer Paige Spiranac. You can also bag yourself a golf lesson with Rory, so you can finally work that slice out of your game.
“It took me a few years to get rid of the slice, but when I did it changed my life,” Horan told Time Out Dubai, before admitting that he’s going to be spending a bit more time in the city this time, compared to other visits.
Top of his Dubai bucket list? The new zip line in Dubai Marina (which, you can read all about here, in case you missed it).
“I’m going to fly out and be there for the week of the tournament, and I really want to do the zip line in the Dubai Marina – everyone seems to love it and it looks really great. Otherwise I just want to spend some time on the beach, given it’s 2 degrees in London at the moment, but also just experience a bit more about the town – although chances are I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the golf course.”
Sadly, there are no plans on the horizon for a Niall Horan live in Dubai show, but we’re holding out hope.
“No, there aren’t really any [plans for a concert] at the moment, sadly. I’ll sit down with my agent and plan my way around the world and figure out what I want to do, but sadly I don’t quite get to say exactly what countries I get to go to. Here’s hoping though!”
Omega Dubai Desert Classic: From Dhs175 (daily ticket), free (children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult). Jan25-28. Emirates Hills 2, www.omegadubaidesertclassic.com.