Rory McIlroy’s much-awaited return to Dubai could end up under floodlights according to the European Tour.
The Tour is considering playing next week’s Dubai Desert Classic where McIlroy won his first pro event, under state-of-the-art floodlights at the ninth and 18th holes of the Majis course at the host Emirates Club.
McIlroy has won the Desert Classic twice but it’s not sure how he will take to the notion of finishing his round under artificial light.
Most courses in the UAE are floodlit to allow play in cooler conditions but then there is the concern of heavy dew and a feature of night golf in both Dubai and nearby Abu Dhabi where McIlroy returns to competition this Thursday in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The Tour has staged pre-tournament contests featuring the Tour pros on the floodlit par-3 course at the Emirates Club.
Last year, a field of just 126 competed in the Dubai Desert Classic and now with lighting installed this year’s event boasts 132 that effectively means two additional tee times on both Thursday and Friday.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport. We thank the promoters of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for their inventiveness and imagination which will allow six more players to compete in what is already a world-class field.
“No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.
“The wonderful amphitheatre created by the huge hospitality units and grandstands around the ninth and 18th greens at the Emirates Golf Club is already one of the most atmospheric arenas on our Tour and that element will only be increased by this idea.”
McIlroy is a two-time former Dubai winner but his focus this week will be in the sunshine of the UAE capital and striving also to win the event for a first time.
He also will still be looking to erase memories of now six years ago when he shot the lowest four-round total but then had two penalty shots added after taking an incorrect ‘free’ drop from a spectator crossover point.
McIlroy has actually been runner-up four times in the Abu Dhabi event and where he recorded his only ace in his pro career.
Joining McIlroy in Abu Dhabi for a first time since 2012, is fellow Graeme McDowell who was also third that year McIlroy was second.