Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee on the 11th hole during Abu Dhabi Golf championship January 19, 2014. Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal claimed his third European Tour victory after holding off Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy to win the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship by one shot on Sunday. (REUTERS: Ahmed Jadallah)
DUBAI — Rory McIlroy will happily chance his arm to bag a $2.5 million prize pot with one swing of his club at this weekend’s Dubai Desert Classic, as the twice major winner aims to continue his encouraging form in the Middle East.
Organisers in the Arab city-state, which has a penchant for extravagance such as breaking the world record for the largest fireworks display to mark the start of 2014, are offering the sum for a hole-in-one at the Emirates Golf Club’s 17th.
Given hole-in-one opportunities are normally reserved for par-3s, trying to land one on a par-4 is not without risks. But, with such a tempting prize on offer, the Northern Irishman is unlikely to be the only one willing to take a chance.
“There are not many chances you have to win $2.5 million in one shot, so I’ll give it a go,” McIlroy told a news conference ahead of the event in Dubai, which starts on Thursday.
Asked if he would risk such an attempt if he was three shots clear in the final round, McIlroy replied: “I mean, if you’re confident enough with your driver, yeah, why not.
“It mightn’t even be a driver, that’s the thing. If they move the tee up, it’s only going to play 295 or 300 yards. It’s a 3-wood. Yeah, why not?”
Whether the 24-year-old would actually take such a gamble remains open to debate but McIlroy’s confidence will have been boosted by his recent showings.
Having endured a pretty torrid 2013, the former world number one has begun to find his form in recent weeks, securing the Australian Open title in December before finishing joint-second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship earlier this month.
McIlroy has also achieved plenty of success in the past in Dubai - his first ever pro tournament win was the 2009 Desert Classic, while his last victory on the European Tour came in November 2012 at the DP World Tour Championships in the emirate.
“Yeah, I’m playing well. I played well in Abu Dhabi and feel like my game has came on a little bit since then as well,” he said when asked about his chances this weekend.
“It’s always good to get a win early on in the season, and it would be nice to be up there at least and challenging for the trophy on Sunday.”