Rory McIlroy hoping to get back into full flow at the Dubai Desert Classic

The Northern Irishman didn’t make the top 10 in Abu Dhabi last week but now arrives at a venue where he’s twice been crowned champion.

Towards the end of Rory McIlroy's Dubai Desert Classic pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, an unexpected question was put to the four-time major winner.

"I know you are very well-read. What book have you got with you this week?"

As usual, Rory gave the full, rounded, real-life answer rather than the self-edited PR one.

"I've got a few, not that I've actually opened them or read them. Sort of wishful thinking on my part when I packed," he said.

"My Mum and Dad got me a few books for Christmas. Showing where I am in life; all I wanted for Christmas was books and a new coffee machine!"

Rory always did do a good line in self deprecation.

Rory McIlroy

Despite the grey hairs starting to sprout, he's still only 32 years old. But, as a new father, there is a sense that, more than ever, he wants to know what life is all about and understand himself further.

And so he did reveal there was one particular book getting his attention.

"I'm reading a book at the minute called 'Flow', it was brought out in 1993 or 1995. Just the science behind consciousness and getting into flow state and optimal thinking," said McIlroy.

"So that's the one that I'm sort of trying to get through at the minute but it's very deep. It's sort of one of those ones that you can only read five or ten pages at night and have to revisit it the next day."

Asked if it was work related or life related, McIlroy added: "Life, work, a bit of everything."

McIlroy's thirst for knowledge and improvement suggests he's still very much in love with the game and has many goals still to achieve.

This is a tournament he's won twice but the true greats are never sated. If they can put their name on a trophy more than once, why not add a third, fourth, fifth or more? After all, repeat success at the same venue shows the course plays to their strengths.

And so it is with McIlroy and the Majlis course, host of this week's Dubai Desert Classic.

In his last eights visits, Rory has never finished outside the top 10 and in two of those (2009 and 2015) he took the title.

Is he ready for number three after shaking off some rust when tied 12th in last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Yas Links?

Here are some key lines from his chat with the press on Tuesday.

Rory on the course

"This was one of the first events I played on The European Tour back in 2006, I think as a 16-year-old.

"The course hasn't changed that much over the years. They put a couple of new tee boxes here and there. The greens seem to get progressively smaller as we keep coming back, so to see the new green complexes is nice to get them back to their original shapes.

"It's a great golf course. It's a fun golf course to play. Gives you plenty of opportunities to make birdies.

"You know the scoring is always going to be pretty good. You have the three par 5s on the back nine. You have a couple of reachable fours, and it's just a fun golf course to play. I think everyone enjoys coming back here.

"The course, as the trees grow up, everything got claustrophobic over the years and they have sort of tried to career that out again.

"It definitely doesn't feel as constricting as it used to and it certainly doesn't feel as constricting as even like last week where you had a lot of trouble on either side of fairways and water. There's some opportunities where you can just step up and give it a rip which is nice."

On the changes to the 13th tee

"For me, I like it because I don't have to take on as much of the dogleg, so then you're not hitting as much across the fairway, so I don't have to worry about the run out as much.

"So to me, the changes are good for the longer hitters because the angles used to be so sharp in the doglegs and now with tees back and 18 tee, moving that a little further to the right, you're not having to go across the dogleg quite as much.

"It's a nice feeling knowing you don't have to try to fit a driver into a 10- or 15-yard wide gap. You have a little more room to play with."

On being back at the scene of his first win

"A lot of good memories here. Played as an amateur, got to world No.1 amateur after playing pretty well in 2007.

"I lived in Dubai for four years as well. I've got good memories here. Have a lot of close friends from this region. It's a very comfortable place for me and it's nice to be back."

On his strongest memories in the event

"Two years stick out in particular because I've won but I've had plenty of chances to win, even something as stupid as standing on 11 tee today.

"First time I played that hole since playing it back in 2018 in the final round, and all I thought about was hitting in the left bunker and making bogey and Haotong made two and that was like a big swing in the tournament and he ended up going on and winning. That's obviously not a great memory at all, but there's a lot of memories.

"But all good. Even coming here and playing social golf, yeah, as well, you just look at everything around, and I think about the first time I came here in '06 and none of this was around.

"It just sort of shows how far Dubai has come and the presence it has on the global stage and what this city means to the region, it's pretty impressive."

On the state of his game

"It was a good weekend last weekend (67-69), a disappointing finish on Sunday but I felt some of the golf I played over the weekend was very encouraging. I guess just more of the same, maybe just try to refine a few things here and there.

"But it's early in the year, and all I can ask for is getting myself into contention, trying to hit shots under pressure when it matters and hopefully I get another chance to do that this week."

Rory's amazing first-round record

McIlroy tees off in the first round on Thursday at 08:00. He has Open champion Collin Morikawa and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger for company.

Don't be surprised if he gets off to a flying start.

In his last eight appearances, McIlroy has ended day one with a piece of the lead (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014) no less than four times.

In fact, he's never been lower on the first-day leaderboard than sixth since his wire-to-wire win in 2009.

His last 10 opening rounds on the par 72 read: 65, 68, 66, 63, 66, 65, 68, 64, 69, 69.

READ MORE: Collin Morikawa presses a well-thumbed reset button at the Dubai Desert Classic.

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