By Bernie McGuire in Abu Dhabi.
You could not question Rory McIlroy’s actions post the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship some two months on from his last appearance in the UAE.
Two days shy of two months ago, McIlroy let slip victory when he bogeyed three of his closing four holes at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship about a 70-minute drive ‘up the road’ the road in Dubai.
Then within the scorer’s hut at Jumeirah Resort, he showed his disappointment by virtually tearing the collar from his shirt, and avoiding any post-round discussion.
In the first event of a new season ‘down the road’ in Abu Dhabi, he bogeyed the closing two holes on the windswept Yas Links course in a closing three-under-par 69 for a top-20 finish at five-under-par but it was so very different in exiting the scorer’s hut.
On this occasion, McIlroy had no qualms speaking with SKY Sports, spending a decent five minutes with a waiting handful of journalists before being asked by a Tour official to autograph around half-a-dozen caps and a few shirts. He also autographed a few items for four waiting children, had the odd selfie taken, gave away his Nike cap, and then personally autographed a painting of himself.
McIlroy’s final day began with two birdies in his opening four holes and while he dropped a shot at the sixth for the third time in four rounds, he brilliantly holed his second shot for an eagle at the par-4 ninth hole to move to three-under for his round.
However, it was then a string of three birdies in four holes from the 10th, and as the sounds of Formula 3000 race cars were being given the green light across the road at the Yas Island circuit that sent McIlroy into second place.
It had many wondering if finally, in an event where McIlroy has come closer to victory than in any event in all his now 14 full years as a pro, if he could finally be handed the unique falcon trophy.
Alas, the 13th hole would prove the high-water mark of his 2022 Abu Dhabi challenge with McIlroy bogeying the 14th and then, as mentioned, he also bogeyed the closing pair.
“Yeah, disappointing. I think I have to look at how I played the first 13 holes. I obviously have to know how I played the last five as well but take the positives from the first 13 holes and learn from the loose shots I hit coming in,” he said.
“Looking back, the birdie on Friday was important, it was important to be here. It’s never nice missing the cut first time out, first time out in the new year. It was certainly a step in the right direction.
“Saying that it’s hard to get the negatives out of my head right now seeing as I just finished with three bogeys in the last five but overall there were more positives yeah.”
McIlroy is contesting this coming week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic and a second straight $8m Rolex Series event.
He also goes to the Emirates Club and the first grass course in the UAE, where he broke through for a first pro career win in 2009 and where he won also for a second occasion in 2015 just days after he had finished well off the lead in a pro/am Abu Dhabi Invitational at Yas Links.
“I’ve got happy memories of the Emirates club as I’ve played really well there in the past, first win, had another win in 2015 there and I’ve come close another couple of times,” he said.
“I haven’t been back in a while, so I am looking forward to the Emirates. I’m looking forward to getting back there. Heard they have made a couple of changes to the golf course, too, so I’m looking forward to seeing those.”
And before heading off to the locker-room, Irish Golfer Magazine asked McIlroy if he felt more thought process had gone into playing this week’s Yas Links than the prior 16-year host course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“I think just the wind makes it tricky. I’m glad the wind this week — if there was no wind this week it would be a putting competition,” he said.
“It was good that the wind did blow a little bit. I thought the atmosphere at the other venue was better, too. I think this felt a little flat all week. So, I don’t know if they are here again or what’s happening, but see you in 2026.
“So, a day off tomorrow and I’ll play nine holes on Tuesday in the Pro-Am.”
- Full scoring HERE