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Rory McIlroy will return to Euro tour at season's opener in Abu Dhabi



Rory McIlroy hoping to better his third place finishes in Abu Dhabi

Rory McIlroy hoping to better his third place finishes in Abu Dhabi

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Rory McIlroy hoping to better his third place finishes in Abu Dhabi

Rory McIlroy has confirmed he will start his 2021 season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the United Arab Emirates on January 21.

The World No.4 announced he will play in his first event outside the United States since last February after he and former US PGA champion and Ryder Cup star Justin Thomas became the first players to commit to the field for the opening event of the 2021 European Tour schedule.

This will be McIlroy's 11th career appearance in Abu Dhabi and his first appearance at the event since 2018, and it has historically been a strong tournament for him.

The 31-year-old has recorded seven finishes inside the top-three at Abu Dhabi Golf Club but has yet to claim the title, something he is hoping he can rectify in January.

"I'm looking forward to coming back to Abu Dhabi," said four-time Major champion McIlroy, who finished tied-third in his last outing in Abu Dhabi.

"It's always a great event for the players and it's the perfect place for me to start the 2021 season. Abu Dhabi Golf Club is a world-class golf course, one that I have come close to winning on several times over the years, so hopefully I can do well again and be right up there contending come Sunday."

McIlroy took a strong stance during the coronavirus pandemic, opting to compete only in tournaments in the USA after the schedule resumed to avoid travel in order to protect wife Erica and their first child, daughter Poppy, who was born in August.

When he tees up in Abu Dhabi, it will be his first event outside the USA since the WGC-Mexico Championship, while it will be the first time he's played in a tournament solely sanctioned by the European Tour since finishing fourth at the 2019 DP World Tour Championship.

Meanwhile, the European Ryder Cup Team confirmed the qualification process for next year's event will restart on January 1,after being suspended due to the pandemic.

The biennial Europe vs USA meeting was due to take place at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September but was pushed back to September 24-26, 2021 after it was confirmed spectators could not attend.

Because of the fractured nature of the 2020 season, which saw many players reduce their schedules significantly, the European Team suspended the qualification process in March.

And, in order to reward form in 2021, they have now confirmed the qualification system will be amended slightly to favour points gained in the new year.

Players will resume on the same number of points from when the process was suspended, but all points gained in events from January 1 until May 9 will be multiplied by 1.5, with points accumulated from May 12 until the BMW PGA Championship, which ends on September 12, multiplied by 2.

Nine players will qualify for the team based on points, with captain Padraig Harrington having three wildcard picks which he will announce after the BMW PGA Championship.

Belfast Telegraph