Rory McIlroy will gunning for a “home” victory and some Masters advice when tees it up with Mark O’Meara in this week’s Dubai Desert Classic.
As the golf world focuses on the battle between Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal for the Ryder Cup captaincy, McIlroy has set his sights on racking up that first tour win.
A maiden triumph in Dubai would be just perfect for the Ulster hot shot, 19, who is building a home in the emirate where he is sponsored by the luxury hotel chain Jumeirah.
McIlroy said: “It would be a great place to do it. Dubai has become a home from home for me.
“I feel really comfortable and relaxed here and I'm definitely hoping to do better than last year.”
Twelve months ago, McIlroy arrived in Dubai as world No 190 but missed the cut.
But has since scorched to 39th in the rankings to secure his Masters debut and and can make the world’s top-20 if he wins this week.
Playing with 1998 Masters champion O’Meara will also give the Holywood starlet a chance to ask for some Augusta National tips ahead of his first trip down Magnolia Lane in April.
But he already feels that he has learned a lot about what makes him tick and has plans to get even better over the next year.
He said: “I've exceeded my own expectations. I never thought I would get into the top 40 in the world at such an early stage in my career.
“I've learnt a lot about what works for me. When I first came out on Tour I was looking at what the other guys were doing.
“But I've realised that what I have to do to make myself play well is not necessarily what works for other players. It's been a big learning curve.
“My strength at the moment is my long game but my chipping and putting needs to be a little bit stronger.
“If I can get up and down once more each round, that's four shots saved per tournament which can mean a huge difference.”
After a scintillating run of eight top 10s from his last ten starts, McIlroy made up the numbers in last week’s Qatar Masters, where he had to birdie the last two holes on Friday to make the cut and finished 46th.
But he’s not too worried about one poor result and hopes to contend again this week and continue to climb the world rankings and the Race to Dubai money list.
With one eye on November’s $10 m Dubai World Championship, McIlroy will play all the top events on both sides of the Atlantic this year.
He said: “I'm looking forward to playing on both Tours. It's going to be a great year.”