Rory aims to go one better

McIlroy ready for test alongside Woods and Donald in Abu Dhabi

Last Updated: 25/01/12 2:56pm

Rory McIlroy on the course with Tiger Woods

After finishing 11th, fifth, third and second in the last four years at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Rory McIlroy is aiming to improve again this week and take the title.

McIlroy is paired with Tiger Woods and world number one Luke Donald on the opening two days in his first event of 2012.

"It's a golf course that I feel suits me," McIlroy said. "Maybe doesn't suit me as well as it does Martin Kaymer, but I'm getting there."

The German, out later in the first round with Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, has won the title two of the past three years.


"It's a great way to start the year and I'm excited to get the new season up and running," added McIlroy, who practised with Woods for nine holes on Tuesday.

"It was good. He seems like he's happy with everything - I know he's definitely happy that he feels like he's back to 100% fitness, which is great for him.

"He hit a lot of good shots out there, so I think he's worked hard in the off-season and looks like his game is in pretty good shape.

"It's definitely not a quiet way to start the year. You're playing with two of the best golfers in the world in the first two days and you're up against one of the strongest fields probably that will be assembled this year.

"You want to try and get off to a good start, so you want to try and play well, but obviously the majors have that little bit extra."

McIlroy's last appearance in the Middle East came at the Dubai World Championship, where he was struggling with suspected Dengue fever.

"I definitely wasn't feeling my best the last couple of weeks of the season. I actually stayed out in Dubai for 10 days afterwards - I was advised not to travel anywhere for at least a week.

"I got home on December 22, spent three or four days at home, then flew to Thailand to spend New Year with my family and Caroline's family as well."

Putting plan

Westwood will be delighted to start 2012 as he ended 2011, winning in South Africa and Thailand either side of the Dubai event.

"The most pleasing thing was about four weeks prior to that I started working with Phil Kenyon, my new putting coach," said the world number two.

"To shoot 62 around Sun City and then 60 and 64 around the course in Thailand you need to start making a few 15-footers, which I've been missing for the previous 17 years!

"Once they start going in all of a sudden you turn what would be a good round of 65 into a 60 or 62."

Westwood's main aim for the season, of course, is to try to end his wait for a major.

"I think it's very difficult to win a major without making a few (putts) that are surprising or bonuses, so if I can start rolling in a few 25- to 30-footers that's obviously going to make a massive difference.

"The difference with Phil is that my practice is a lot more structured and based around drills to make sure that I do the same thing over and over again.

"And other than saying that I'm not answering any more questions on putting.

"It helps your whole game. It gives you confidence - if you start making putts that you have not been making then it takes the pressure off your long game."