‘Rory McIlroy’s Dubai Desert Classic win sees Northern Irishman start season on a high’24th January 2024

Rory McIlroy’s victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic is by no means an indicator that he will end his agonising wait for a Masters Green Jacket.

We only have to go back to last year to recall that his epic triumph over Patrick Reed on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Club did not translate into completion of the career Grand Slam.

But already the world number two has emphatically proven that he has picked up smoothly from where he left off from his Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai-winning season of 2023.

There has been no drop-off despite a sizeable break. Sunday’s one-shot triumph over Adrian Meronk came in only his third tournament since completing his biggest personal Ryder Cup contribution (four out of five points) in the autumn.

Those events included turning up at the DP World Tour Championship in November to pick up an already secured fifth Race to Dubai title and then came a runner-up finish at the Dubai Invitational the week before this Desert Classic victory.

His time off was not wasted and the triumph he is currently savouring was an embodiment of perhaps his biggest learning from last season, which came in the aftermath of a Masters missed cut.

“I think last year at Augusta, I learnt a lot about myself,” McIlroy said after his well-managed closing 70 brought victory in a tournament where he had trailed by 10 shots at the halfway stage.

“I’ve told this story numerous times now about the first green on Friday (at the Masters), and Brooks (Koepka) was on the eighth green and I saw the big leaderboard, and I was already 10 behind at that point.

“I was 10 behind after two days this week and ended up winning the golf tournament. That’s massive. I feel like I’ve taken that learning already and put it into practise a little bit.”