Rory roars home to claim pole position from Meronk

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There is no keeping McIlroy off the sports pages these days, whether it be for his golf or for something he’s said
Posted on
January 22, 2024
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

It was a familiar story at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic which concluded at the Emirates Golf Club yesterday. It was won by Rory McIlroy, the fourth time he had won this particular tournament, on this occasion by a shot from Poland’s Adrian Meronk.

McIlroy was the defending champion and he had also won here in 2009 and 2015. But for him the memories go back to 2006. “I took a media credential and I walked inside the ropes to follow Tiger and Ernie and Thomas Bjorn,” he recalled. “Just to think about even the arc of that: Thomas Bjorn was my Ryder Cup captain; I ended up buying Ernie Els's house; I've become really good friends with Tiger Woods. It's just amazing to think back on the last 18 years and sort of where I find myself.”

In fact, it was fitting that the end story of the tournament would be about the top two home. They were a major part of the build-up, too. There is no keeping McIlroy off the sports pages these days, whether it be for his golf or for something he’s said. Into the latter category last week was his observation about why, as one of the six short-listed potential winners, he had not made any sort of contribution to the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award last month. His answer was concise and candid. “I forgot I was nominated,” he said. He went to add: “That’s how much I think about it. It’s not what it once was.” I think few people would argue with that; it doesn’t help that the BBC can no longer acquire much footage of the year’s sporting highlights. But in McIlroy’s case it can’t help that in 2014, when he had won the Open and the USPGA Championship that summer, he was beaten to the chequered flag by Lewis Hamilton, who had just won his second World Drivers’ Championship. It would be just McIlroy’s luck to win the Masters in April and thereby complete his personal Grand Slam only for Harry Kane to score a hat-trick in the final of Euro 2024 and claim the SPOTY award. (For Scottish or Welsh readers, I’m only kidding!) I am sure Rory would be thrilled for that scenario to happen this year.

Staying with awards, the week in Dubai had begun with the presentation to Meronk of the 2023 Seve Ballesteros Award. The 31-year-old won three times on the DP World Tour last season and he was voted Player of the Year by his peers on the Tour. He was handed the trophy by Javier Ballesteros, one of the two sons of the great Spanish golfer who had won this tournament in 1992. Meronk collected 38% of the votes cast, putting him ahead of McIlroy, Nicolai Højgaard and Viktor Hovland. One has to feel some of that support may have represented a sympathy vote given that he was rather controversially overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card last autumn. (Mind you, given what happened in Rome, no one can say Luke Donald made the wrong call.) One also wonders what might have happened had Jon Rahm, a colossus in the match as well as winner of the Masters last year, had not thrown in his lot with LIV?


You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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