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Rory McIlroy returns to Emirates GC this week as one of the headline names in a star-studded Dubai Desert Classic field. The four-time Major champion and two-time Dubai Desert Classic winner made one of his first ever European Tour starts in this tournament back in 2006 as a 16-year-old, where he saw "one of the best golf shots I've ever seen" from Tiger Woods.
McIlroy said that he managed to get a media pass to watch Woods inside the ropes during the 2006 tournament where Tiger went on to defeat Ernie Els in a playoff.
"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," McIlroy said. "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, they can feel the same way or feel the same things as what I thought back then, then that's a pretty cool feeling."
McIlroy missed the cut that week in 2006 but did go on to win his maiden European Tour title three years later at the Dubai Desert Classic thanks to a one-stroke victory over Justin Rose. His second Dubai Desert Classic win came in 2015 when he finished three clear of Alex Noren. The Northern Irishman has also won three Race to Dubai titles at Jumeirah Golf Estates and previously lived in Dubai for four years.
He makes his first start in this event since 2018 when he finished runner-up to Haotong Li.
Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Honma TR20
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max
Irons: Honma TR20B
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x