Smiles all round for Rose, Fleetwood and McIlroy ahead of a practice round for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club yesterday in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Organiser

Abu Dhabi: Rory McIlroy’s road to regaining lost ground and top form starts with this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which begins on Thursday.

The Northern Irishman has not teed off since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October after being plagued with a rib injury.

Having gone winless, he slipped out of the top 10 in the world rankings last year — both of which had not happened since 2008. However, the 28-year-old looked fit as a fiddle in the pre-tournament press conference and went on to reveal that he is ready for the packed season ahead.

 I’m excited to be back at a golf tournament...the last few months have been really nice just to concentrate on a few things I needed to take care of.”

 - Rory McIlroy » Former World No 1 

“I’m excited to be back at a golf tournament. It’s been a while. You know, the last few months have been really nice just to concentrate on a few things I needed to take care of in terms of getting myself fit and healthy to come back and sharpen up a few things in my game,” said McIlory, who is yet to win the title here but has finished runner-up four times (2015, 2014, 2012, 2011).

These couple of weeks in the Middle East will give McIlroy a clear idea of where he stands at the beginning of this season. McIlory went on to reveal that he has made a cautious effort to keep a tab on his diet, has been hitting the gym and training hard to get fit.

“Started working with a dietitian. Yeah, just trying to be a little more diligent. Careful about what I’m putting into my body and obviously that can dictate energy levels and all that stuff, so just trying to keep on top of it,” said McIlroy, who in a recent interview had stated that there were some irregularities in his heartbeat but he brushed aside that it was a matter of concern.

“Your heartbeat has two big spikes, and then a tiny little spike at the end, and that little spike at the end was the other way, inverted.

“So basically, it’s nothing, and once they ramped my heart rate up to 140, 150 beats per minute, that started to go the right way again, so it was totally fine. After MRI they said, I have a bit of a thickening in the hard wall, nothing really a big deal, just something you have to keep on top of, and that was really it,” said McIlroy.

After Abu Dhabi, McIlory will continue the Desert Swing by taking part in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and then will be returning to PGA Tour action — the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Genesis Open and Honda Classic.

Though he is giving WGC-Mexico Championship a skip, he will be playing the Valspar Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and likely the WGC-Dell Match Play before setting his sights on the Masters.

“Majors are obviously very exciting. I think that the venues for the majors this year are very strong. Obviously with Shinnecock for the US Open, Carnoustie for The Open and Bellerive for the PGA; so really strong golf courses for the four Majors,” said the Ulsterman, who is also keen to get the record straight against the Americans in the Ryder Cup this year.

“Ryder Cup year is obviously something that you always look forward to, especially after what happened at Hazeltine a couple of years ago. Excited and hopefully will be on that team and try to get a Ryder Cup win for Europe or be a part of that. So just excited to get out there and play a pretty full and busy schedule,” said McIlroy, who has already announced that he might end up figuring in around 30 events this season.