Rory McIlroy brimming with confidence ahead of Dubai Desert Classic

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McIlroy has shown plenty of signs of returning to his best, though, and was seven under, without a bogey, to open his tournament at the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday, a score that left him just three off leader Jamie Donaldson.

"I was picturing birdieing them all and then jumping in the lake on the last".

Welshman Donaldson nearly lost his European Tour card last season, before a fourth-placed finish at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters spared him that misfortune.

Horsey finished birdie-birdie to set a blistering pace but has both two-time victor Rory McIlroy (65) and defending champion Sergio Garcia (67) sitting ominously placed on the leaderboard. "If anything, I could have maybe driven it a little straighter on last day and given myself some more shots from the fairways to attack some pins", he said.

"I didn't expect to play as well as I did last week, and it's been nice to continue that into this week".

Following up on his third place finish last week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, McIlroy carded a 65.

On a ideal morning for scoring on day one of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy took full advantage to breeze round in a bogey-free 65. "I birdied five and then started thinking, "if I just birdie them all coming in, then I've done it".

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'I've worked hard since then and obviously any time you shoot 63 it's going to give you plenty of momentum, ' he said.

The four-time Major Championship victor said Monday was his first day off in just over two weeks and he believes he is in a good place to kick on after exceeding expectations in Abu Dhabi.

"That's honestly one of my goals this year".

Paul Lawrie and his oldest son, Craig, who is caddying for him, talk over a shot on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.

"I did exceed expectations". I took three months off at the end of 2016 trying to get myself right and it didn't work.

"For the players, it's one of those courses that provides challenges on every hole, but it's also quite playable". "Sometimes you are best not thinking and just playing, but I was thinking of jumping in the lake if I'd done it".

Interestingly, both winners of this tournament in the last two years - Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia - have gone on to win the Masters...might that be playing on McIlroy's mind? I feel like started off previous year a little bit sort of 71, 70 instead of getting right into the thick of things from the start.

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