World No. 1 Rory McIlroy Headlines Field for 'Major of the Middle East'

RORY MCILROY-ODDC

Coming on the back of a phenomenal year on the greens, Rory McIlory will be hoping to keep the momentum rolling into 2015 when he headlines a strong field at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, billed as the 'Major of the Middle East,' at Emirates Golf Club from January 29 to February 1.

The top-ranked player in the world, who will be making his ninth appearance in the tournament, will join a galaxy of European top-draws spearheaded by defending champion Stephen Gallacher, world number two Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood when he returns to the site of his first professional win in 2009.

Named 'Player of the year' on both sides of the Atlantic after topping the money lists in Europe and the United Sates, the Northern Irishman rounded off a memorable 2014 season, highlighted by victories in the Open Championship and PGA Championship besides guiding Europe to an emphatic 16.5-11.5 win over the United States in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

One of the most naturally gifted golfers on the planet, McIlroy showed a glimpse of his precocious talent when he hit a 40-yard drive at the age of two, but his momentous journey to stardom began at the 2009 Omega Dubai Desert Classic when he won his first European Tour event, aged 19, becoming the seventh youngest winner in Tour history.

"I've got great memories of Dubai and it will be fun to get back to a golf course where I have enjoyed success over the years," said 25-year-old Ulsterman, who incidentally also made his first cut in a European Tour event as a 17-year-old amateur at the 2007 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

"It was nice to get my first professional win in Dubai.  I had my parents there with me and it was a special moment that I will never forget. That win was a real stepping stone for the success that followed and my relationship with Dubai went from strength to strength," said McIlroy, a four-time major winner.

"To think the tournament is older than I am is testimony to its strength," said McIlroy, whose best score at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is a 63 he shot in 2014, just two shy of the course record held by South Africa's Ernie Els since 1994.

"They have an outstanding field all the time, and the golf course (Majlis) is really in great shape. Obviously, I will be looking to win the event again," said McIlroy, who boasts 21 professionals wins, including nine each on the European Tour and the PGA Tour.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, commented: "We are delighted to welcome back a standout player in a field which exudes the energy of a major with all those big names battling for glory in Dubai. 

"We have seen him first compete as an amateur in 2006 and now we will see him contest as the world number one for the first time. His incredible journey has left indelible footprints in the tournament's history.

"As his name has become synonymous with the golfing landscape of Dubai, I am confident his presence will radiate distinct energy to the tournament, one that will rub off well on fans. I wish him the very best and hope that the future brings him more success."

Meanwhile, tickets may be purchased online by visiting the tournament web site www.dubaidesertclassic.com or www.golfindubai.org

Daily tickets for the four-day main competition, starting on January 29, are priced at Dh 175. A season pass, which provides access all week, including the Challenge Match and Pro Am day, is available for Dh 675.

Tickets to the Challenge Match and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Pro-am on Wednesday, January 28, cost Dh 75 each.

The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is backed by OMEGA as the title sponsor and Emirates Global Aluminium PJSC as sponsor. The co-sponsors are: CNN, Drydocks World & Maritime World, Emirates NBD, Gulf News, Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels, Mercedes and wasl, while Dubai Duty Free, Neocasa Interiors and Motivate Publishing are the Patrons in golf in DUBAi's drive to showcase the emirate's vibrant golfing scene to a worldwide audience.