Can Irish star Rory McIlroy win in Abu Dhabi - his first tournament of the new season?

Can Irish star Rory McIlroy win in Abu Dhabi - his first tournament of the new season?

RORY MCILROY will make his first golfing appearance of 2022 this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. 

Due to the tour’s South African events being affected by the Omicron variant of Covid-19 before the new year, in real terms, this Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi is the first tournament of the new season on the DP World Tour - which has recently replaced the European Tour.

McIlroy playing on the European or World circuit has become a rarer sight these days and his name in the field adds to the glamour of one of the tour’s top events, with over $8million to be dished out in prize money on Sunday.

McIlroy’s victory on the PGA Tour at the back end of last year reminded us of how he can pop up with a win from nowhere, such is his quality.

Seemingly out of form, he produced a fine performance at the CJ Cup to edge out Open champion Collin Morikawa.

However, despite getting his 20th PGA Tour title, McIlroy will have deemed 2021 a disappointing year with his lack of success in the majors and the Ryder Cup.

As the new year begins, his return to childhood coach, Michael Bannon, is being hailed as a good move.

Last season, it was often argued that the 32-year-old was becoming sidetracked in his search for putting, mental and conditioning improvements.

Time will tell this year whether McIlroy now has his preparation focused in the right areas and is playing as freely as he desires.

Over the years, Abu Dhabi has proved something of a poisoned chalice for him.

He has finished as runner-up on four different occasions.

So, while he does produce strong displays in the Middle East, there are also memories of frustrating close misses.

How he would love to get a monkey off his back by finally getting over the line in his first tournament of the year.

Meanwhile, Lowry will be also hoping to get off to a strong start in an event he has fond memories of.

It was in Abu Dhabi in 2019 when the Offaly man laid down the foundations for his remarkable Open victory in Portrush.

That triumph in the Middle East kickstarted a remarkable season for Lowry by breaking a three-year barren spell and giving him the belief for his later success in the Open.

However, nearly three years on, Lowry has struggled to find the same level of performance and, as a result, the victories have dried up.

His current dip in form is reminiscent to the one he endured after winning the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2015, a victory which was supposed to quickly elevate him towards the top but took some time to materialise.

Although he’s now a major winner, Lowry must be a little frustrated by the peaks and troughs in his career so far.

A good showing in Abu Dhabi could help him rediscover his mojo in 2022.