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McIlroy aims to keep improving

Rory McIlroy feels ready to make a better start to 2012 than his girlfriend.

At the Australian Open tennis, Caroline Wozniacki's quarter-final defeat to Kim Clijsters has cost her the world number one spot, while McIlroy kicks off his season on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he is paired with Tiger Woods and world number one Luke Donald on the opening two days.

The 22-year-old US Open champion has finished 11th, fifth, third and second in the event the past four years and would love to see that improvement continue, as he said: "It's a golf course that I feel suits me. Maybe doesn't suit me as well as it does Martin Kaymer, but I'm getting there."

The German, out later in the first round with Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, has won the title two of the past three years and three of the last four.

"It's a great way to start the year and I'm excited to get the new season up and running," added McIlroy, who practised with Woods for nine holes on Tuesday. "It was good. He seems like he's happy with everything - I know he's definitely happy that he feels like he's back to 100% fitness, which is great for him.

"He hit a lot of good shots out there, so I think he's worked hard in the off-season and looks like his game is in pretty good shape.

"It's definitely not a quiet way to start the year. You're playing with two of the best golfers in the world in the first two days and you're up against one of the strongest fields probably that will be assembled this year.

"You want to try and get off to a good start, so you want to try and play well, but obviously the majors have that little bit extra."

McIlroy's last appearance in the Middle East was for last month's Dubai World Championship, where he was struggling with suspected Dengue fever.

He added: "I definitely wasn't feeling my best the last couple of weeks of the season. I actually stayed out in Dubai for 10 days afterwards - I was advised not to travel anywhere for at least a week. I got home on December 22, spent three or four days at home, then flew to Thailand to spend New Year with my family and Caroline's family as well."

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