By Bernie McGuire in Dubai.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy played a 10-hole Hero Dubai Desert Classic practice round with fellow Holywood club member Tom McKibbin that allowed him to reach out to the 20-year-old following last week’s gut-wrenching outcome in Abu Dhabi.
It was the second practice round for the duo in less than a fortnight as McIlroy revealed he had arranged for a practice round last week in Florida just prior to McKibbin getting a late call-up into the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
McKibbin was out in the final group last Friday, teeing off at a very late 3.35pm when poor light forced officials to call a halt to proceedings, leaving McKibbin and his two playing partners still two holes to play on the Yas Links course.
McKibbin was three-under-par at the time and simply needed to par both holes in teeing-off at 8am local time (Saturday) to ensure his place into the weekend rounds of a fifth straight DP World Tour start.
The Galgorm Castle attached player pared 17 but horribly found the water left of the final hole in walking off with a double-bogey ‘7’ and missed the cut in the rich $US9m event by a shot at one-under.
Of course, it didn’t help McKibbin being the last into the field and not arriving till Tuesday night, and with a Pro-Am being held on the course Wednesday, it meant no opportunity to play the course.
While McIlroy is no stranger to the host Emirates Club, this week is McKibbin’s first appearance, and also a second straight Rolex Series start boasting a $US9m purse.
The duo teed-off from the first early afternoon, following a morning Pro-Am and played 10 holes before McIlroy ventured across to the close-by 16th to play the closing three holes.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when something like that happens no matter what level of the game you are playing, but then Tom will learn from that and will be stronger,” said McIlroy.
“It’s what I kind of said to him and besides, he’s moved on. I’m delighted for him to have received an invitation this week.”
McKibbin, as well, has put the incident behind him saying: “Last week was last week, so I have another chance this week.
“It’s just nice to be out here not only playing alongside Rory but also playing the tournament for a first time. I was out here many years ago and played a social round after a last-minute cancellation but this week is very different.
“The set-up for the tournament looks great, so I’m looking forward to the week.”
McKibbin will play the opening two rounds in the company of England’s Matthew Southgate and Germany’s Nicolai Von Dellingshausen.
McIlroy’s has been drawn to tee-up alongside Kiwi Ryan Fox and Tommy Fleetwood.
- Full tee-times HERE