By Bernie McGuire in Dubai.
For those present, there was the sight of a fresh-faced, curly-haired, and excited teenager, sporting a Titleist cap, wearing a media credential and carrying a long lens camera following the Tiger Woods match on the opening day of the 2006 Dubai Desert Classic
The curly-haired individual was a then 16-year-old amateur Rory McIlroy competing in his fourth event on the European Tour. Also competing that week on the European Tour was World No. 1 Woods.
McIlroy, then already one of the top-ranked amateurs in the world, was out in the the fourth group on the first day teeing-up alongside Aussie Peter O’Malley and England’s Robert Coles.
The Holywood teenager posted a disappointing 77 but that was not an issue as McIlroy was anxious to get back out onto the Emirates course and follow the afternoon three-ball of Woods, Henrik Stenson and Darren Clarke.
However, the crowd following the 12.15pm tee-off three-ball was a few deep and McIlroy was having trouble getting a close look at his golfing hero.
Up stepped Getty Images Stuart Franklin, a very affable England-born photographer living in Germany. He recognised McIlroy in the crowd and suggested he come under the spectator ropes and help carry one of his long lenses.
Perfect! McIlroy was inside the ropes and got a close-up view of Woods who went out and posted a five-under par 67 to sit just three shots off the lead. Woods added rounds of 66, 67 and 69 to finish tied with Ernie Els on 19-under par and defeated the South African in a play-off.
McIlroy spoke of that week earlier today ahead of this week’s new sponsored Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic. It prompted the now 32-year-old to be asked if he was 16-years old this week, who would he follow around the Majlis layout.
“Me!” He laughed
“No, I mean, there’s so many guys. Obviously, Collin, Viktor. You have got so many guys that have been part of the Tour for so long. I’m thinking like Harrington, Poulter, Westwood, Stenson, Monty for sure. How many more times are people going to get a chance to see Monty play golf in this part of the world?
“I had a better view than most being able to get inside the ropes and have a media credential and Tiger to this day, hit a 5-iron out of the right rough on 10 and landed on the green and stopped it on the green and to this day it was one of the best golf shots I’ve ever seen. Just sticks out in my mind and I was right there for it.
“But it’s cool. I watched a lot of golf events as a teenager, and went to Mount Juliet for the World Golf Championships, went to The Open at Troon, went to the World Match Play at Wentworth a bunch of times.
“I loved getting up close and watching those guys play and try to learn something from them and get inspiration. If there’s young kids running around this week, if they can feel the same way or feel the same things as what I thought back then, then that’s a pretty cool feeling.”
- Full Dubai scoring HERE