INTERVIEW: Rory McIlroy sets sights on glory at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

Joy Chakravarty 23:55 10/01/2016
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Star man: Rory McIlroy.

Now armed with better eyesight, Rory McIlroy is definitely looking forward to this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

The former world No1 and four-time major champion will return to competitive golf in the new year at the January 21-24 championship in the UAE capital, exactly eight weeks after closing his season in style by winning the DP World Tour Championship down the road in Dubai.

And while the current world No3 enjoyed his down time and managed to accomplish several things – including getting engaged to girlfriend Erica Stoll and getting laser surgery to sharpen his vision.

McIlroy is hopeful his new vision is going to play a crucial role as he embarks on what could be a massive year for him after the disappointments of 2015, when he spent several weeks recuperating from an ankle injury that prevented him from defending the Open and WGC-Bridgestone Championship titles.

In an exclusive interview to Sport360, the 26-year-old superstar said: “I’d been wearing glasses or contacts since I was quite young, so it’s great now not to have to worry about that. After the surgery, it was like a whole new world and I couldn’t believe how much better my eyesight was.

“I’m hoping it will impact my golf in a positive way and make everything a little bit sharper. It’s a really positive start to my season and hopefully it will give me early confidence coming to Abu Dhabi.”

Unlike the beginning of 2015, when McIlroy arrived in Abu Dhabi to begin his season with an impending court appearance and a possibility of losing millions in his legal case against his former management company, things could not be any better in the Rory’s world.

“Yes, it’s safe to say I’m happy on the course and off it,” said McIlroy.

“I am looking forward to 2016 and I think the Olympics and Ryder Cup will be a welcome addition to the year. I’m excited to start my season here in Abu Dhabi at a course I love and feel extremely comfortable on.

McIlroy has had a strange relationship with Abu Dhabi Golf Club. In eight previous visits, he has had six top-five finishes, including four runners-up, and missed the cut in 2013.

“Hopefully I can shake all those second places and finally get my hands on that Falcon trophy. It’d certainly be a great springboard to further success this year,” said McIlroy.

“There’s no denying that I’ve had some fantastic results around this course. It’s a little frustrating never having put this one to bed but I love to start my season here and I have fond memories of great battles that I’ve had coming down the stretch on the last day.

“HSBC does a great job in making this one of the best events on the European Tour and they consistently pull together one of the strongest fields of the year. The competition to claim this title is getting tougher by the year but that’s what makes the event so exciting.

“In terms of the golf course, it definitely suits my game. You have to drive the ball well and the greens are always slick but true. To come back from a long Christmas break and be treated to such quality makes me feel even more comfortable on the course.”

And while McIlroy refused to divulge his goals for the new season, he admitted to getting excited about golf’s re-entry into the Olympics starting this year in Rio.

“I’m not in the habit of talking about my season’s goals. It’s just a few jotted down points to myself to give me a little direction and motivation,” he added.

“But I will say that I’m beginning to get really excited about the Olympics in Rio in 2016. Competing for a gold for my country is not something I ever envisaged as a golfer, so it will be a really special event.

“Perhaps you can ask me next year if an Olympic Gold was on the list…”

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