Rory McIlroy

Ahead of the Dubai World Championship, US Open champion Rory McIlroy shared his hopes for the tournament with Vision

As the scene of my first professional win [McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009] Dubai obviously holds great memories for me. I have been playing in the emirate for a number of years and I enjoy it every time I come.

It has been said that Dubai encourages me to play my best game. It’s true, the style of golf there suits me, but also the city is such a vibrant place that I just enjoy being there, which obviously brings out the best in my game.

The courses in Dubai are fantastic. They are in great condition with excellent layouts. To be honest, that’s what brings me back to the place to practise.

I’ll be at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in December for the Dubai World Championship. Do I have a favourite hole? Every hole on the course asks its own question, but the closing holes add real excitement, particularly 17 and 18. We’ve seen plenty of drama on those two these last few years and we can expect plenty more. Of the two, my favourite is probably the 18th. It’s the perfect risk-reward par-5, with plenty of options off the tee, and of course the option to go for the green with your second. It’s the perfect finishing hole and a great way to end the European Tour season.

Unfortunately my win at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters did not count towards the race to Dubai, so it did not close the gap with [world number one] Luke Donald. But my fourth place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions, also in Shanghai, a week later, helped me catch up a little. Martin Kaymer winning that event means he is the closest to Luke now. It is still all to play for. Hopefully I have a good performance at the UBS Hong Kong Open* the week before Dubai to get even closer. I need all the help I can get! But it’s certainly not all over yet, I still have a chance and I will be hoping to win in both Hong Kong and Dubai.

For me, Dubai’s not just about the golf. The guaranteed sunshine is a big draw. But it’s also about the way of life and the fun you can have. All the hotels and restaurants are fantastic, and the people are incredibly friendly.

Some of my favourite hotels in Dubai are the Mina A’ Salam, and also the Dar al Masyaf. They are both part of the Madinat Jumeirah Resort, an amazing place that is well worth visiting.

I have been an ambassador for the Jumeirah Group since 2007. I actually had a good family friend who worked with Jumeirah, and as soon as I turned professional he hooked me up with them. They have been a massive help in enabling me to get where I am today.

Since my victory in the US Open this summer my life has definitely changed. It has become very busy and I feel as though I’m living it much more in the media spotlight. But that is all part of the package and it is a good problem to have. Of course there is less privacy now that I’m more recognised, but if that is the price to pay for winning Majors, I’m happy to get used to it!

All I have ever wanted to do was play golf. Since I was two years old, I just kept on swinging and banging at balls and I’ve never looked back. My advice for young players keen to be the best golfers they can is to simply practise. You can never practise too much. But only do it if you enjoy it. Enjoyment is key and I would never work as hard as I do if I didn’t love it. 

Many leading players have designed courses in Dubai. I’d definitely like to have a go at some stage but I’m not sure when. For now I plan to win on more courses before I start designing them.

If I could choose to play a round of golf with anyone in the world, apart from my dad, it would be [Spanish tennis ace] Rafa Nadal. I love tennis and I’ve become friends with him over the last year or so. I think he’s a single-figure handicapper, but as yet we’ve never played golf.

* McIlroy won the event