Rory McIlroy has revealed how the unlikely combination of Andre Agassi, Alex Ferguson and twice-daily gym sessions allowed him to begin 2014 as he finished 2013 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
McIlroy ended a miserable 2013 on a professional and personal high, winning his first tournament of the year by edging out Masters champion Adam Scott in the Australian Open and then getting engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki on New Year’s Eve.
But as Wozniacki turned her attention to tennis’ own Australian Open in Melbourne – where she has advanced to the third round – McIlroy headed to Dubai for 10 days of intense pre-season preparation.
Asked to outline a routine day, McIlroy said: “It’s usually in the gym at seven, and then I’m in there for like an hour and a half, get some breakfast, go to the course.
“I’ll probably practice, hit balls and work on my short game from maybe 10 until one and get some lunch and go out and play some holes, play nine or play 18, and then some days I’ll be back at the gym from 5.30 to seven, get some dinner and go to bed. It was good to do that though. I felt like I got a lot out of it.”
McIlroy did at least allow himself some time to read before turning out the lights, with autobiographies of Agassi and Ferguson and ’Tales from the Secret Footballer’ on his bedside table.
And when he returned to competitive action on Thursday, the result was a flawless 70 that deserved better after a superb display of driving which meant the 24-year-old avoided most of the thick rough labelled “dangerous” by Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia.
“I hit it long and straight and just did not take advantage of some of the opportunities, especially on the last two holes,” said McIlroy, who was three off the lead shared by England’s Matthew Baldwin, France’s Romain Wattel and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
“It definitely could have been a bit better but it’s a solid start and I was pleased. It’s the best I’ve driven it in a long time. That’s huge, it’s the foundation of my game. If I drive the ball well, I play well and my results are good.”
In contrast, Garcia struggled to an opening 76 and needed on-course treatment for a shoulder injury exacerbated by hitting shots out of the US Open-style rough.
“Every single ball nestles down and you can’t hit it 100 yards,” said the Spaniard, who was due to undergo further treatment before deciding whether to continue in the event.
“Hopefully I am the only one (who gets hurt), but unfortunately the way the course is set up it could happen to more people.”
Asked if he felt the rough was dangerous, Garcia added: “I would say so.”