McIl­roy looks to shine again in happy Dubai hunt­ing ground

Evening Times - - LAST WORD -

where I don’t have Harry on the bag, it’s good it’s this week,” he said. “I’ve been com­ing back here for 10 years, I know the place like the back of my hand.”

McIl­roy, with four world­wide wins this sea­son, has played just a hand­ful of Euro­pean Tour events in 2019 and while he would have loved the op­por­tu­nity to win the rank­ings race for a fourth time, he knows those above him on the or­der are more de­serv­ing.

“It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing to be able to do it [be Euro­pean No.1] but I just haven’t played enough Euro­pean Tour events,” he said.

“I haven’t played enough count­ing Euro­pean Tour events to have a chance.

“You look at some­one like Bernd Wies­berger who’s played 25, 26, 27 times. Those are the guys that de­serve to be up there with a chance to win.”

One of those still in with a shout of top­ping the rank­ings is Open cham­pion Shane Lowry. The Ir­ish­man is cur­rently fourth but could still fin­ish a mo­men­tous year as the Euro­pean No.1. Af­ter kick-start­ing his cam­paign with vic­tory in Abu Dhabi back in Jan­uary, Lowry en­tered the pan­theon of ma­jor cham­pi­ons with his mighty Open vic­tory at Portrush in July.

Since then his form has been steady rather than spec­tac­u­lar but, as 2019 draws to a con­clu­sion, Lowry is eye­ing a fi­nal flour­ish.

“The one thing that’s got me over the few months since the Open is that when you have bad days and you’re shoot­ing bad scores, peo­ple say to you, ‘You won the Open, it doesn’t mat­ter’, but it does mat­ter,” the Ir­ish­man said.

“Ev­ery day it mat­ters to me and I want to shoot the best score I can and I want to be the best player I can be ev­ery day.

“I’m go­ing to go out and give my best this week but no mat­ter what hap­pens, I will be sit­ting back next week with a ma­jor tro­phy in my cab­i­net this year, and I’ll be happy with what I have.”

Mean­while, the BBC’s ever-shrink­ing golf port­fo­lio has been reduced even fur­ther af­ter it was con­firmed that Sky will be the ex­clu­sive hold­ers of the live rights for The Mas­ters in the UK and Ire­land as of next year.

Up un­til 2011, the Beeb broad­cast all four rounds of the open­ing men’s ma­jor of the sea­son. Hav­ing lost the rights to Sky, ter­res­trial view­ers could still watch live cov­er­age of the third and fourth rounds from Au­gusta on the BBC.

Un­der the lat­est deal, how­ever, golf fans with­out a Sky subscripti­on will have to set­tle for a high­lights pack­age.

Sky Sports’ man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Rob Web­ster said: “We are proud of our as­so­ci­a­tion with Au­gusta National, and our golf team does a great job shar­ing the magic of the Mas­ters with our view­ers.”

Rory McIl­roy strides out on the Earth course ahead of the Tour Cham­pi­onship while Shane Lowry (be­low) is tar­get­ing a big fin­ish to 2019 in Dubai

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