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Rory McIlroy will go all out to repeat triumph at Omega Dubai Desert Classic

By James Tait

World number one Rory McIlroy will today begin his quest to repeat one of the most important victories of his career.

McIlroy recorded his first ever win as a professional at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic six years ago and has racked up four consecutive top-10 finishes at the event since that breakthrough triumph.

And having narrowly missed out on clinching the Abu Dhabi Championship a fortnight ago - finishing as runner-up for the fourth time in five years despite a lack of professional tournament action beforehand - the signs point to a second Coffee Pot Trophy for the Ulsterman.

"It has been a happy hunting ground in the past," the four-time Major winner said.

"This is a place with special memories for me. I've had one win here at the Emirates, but it seems every time I come here I have a chance and I play well.

"It's a great way to start the season. I've done this the last few years, where I've played Abu Dhabi, taken another week off to practice and then come here and played in Dubai.

"I've got four days to try and get back on the victory trail and it feels like a long time since my last win, so it would be nice to get another one pretty soon and start the year off with a victory under my belt."

McIlroy, who was this week named as joint winner of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Person of the Year 2014 award alongside boxer Carl Frampton, looks back on that inaugural win with fond memories.

He said: "I first played in this tournament 10 years ago when I was just an amateur, and I guess with breaking my duck here it was where it all began.

"I had been playing well, broken into the top 50, but when you get your first win, you feel like you move to a different level.

"It has been six years since that win. And it hasn't been a bad six years. It's been okay."

The Holywood native, who will be gunning for a Grand Slam of Majors at the Masters at Augusta in April, quickly turned his focus back to the task at hand, looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

"I'm very happy with where my game is tee to green, and I have put some good work in over the last week on my short game, which I felt needed a little bit of sharpening up from Abu Dhabi; hopefully I can just keep it going," he added.

Compatriot Graeme McDowell joins McIlroy in Dubai this week.

The 2010 US Open champion is returning to Dubai for the first in five years, describing the venue as "a perfect place to start the year".

"It's my first start of the year and I'm looking forward to it," McDowell said. "It's just a great place to come and start the season.

"I guess my thinking was sunshine and a perfect golf course would be the reasons for being out here, and I've been certainly been rewarded with both this week."

The Portrush man is relishing the chance to get out on the course and feels he is in good stead to enjoy a prosperous 2015.

"The golf course is in phenomenal condition and I'm looking forward to the year," he continued.

"I'm feeling fresh and things are certainly good in my life off the golf course, which I feel is giving me the mental space and mental energy to re-motivate and refocus myself on my game and certainly concentrate on the next four or five years and trying to be the best I can be."

McIlroy, meanwhile, has reiterated his call for fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke to be the next European Ryder Cup captain.

Clarke has long been the front-runner for the role with Thomas Bjorn, Miguel Angel Jimenez and former captain Colin Montgomerie also thought to be in the frame to lead the team at Hazeltine in 2016.

"I'm going to be a little biased, Darren is a good friend of mine and from Northern Ireland, so it would be great to see him get the captaincy," McIlroy said.

"I always thought Darren would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the States.

"People love him over there and he'll do well, but people love Miguel anywhere he goes and the more he plays on the Champions Tour he's going to become more popular as well.

"They are both quality candidates and great players. As long as I'm on the team and they decide to play me I'm happy enough."

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