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Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn lauds “dangerous” Rory McIlroy as world number 11 returns to form in UAE

Tied third at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and second at Omega Dubai Desert Classic proves McIlroy is back on song

Matt Jones 2018/01/29

Thomas Bjorn has labeled Rory McIlroy “dangerous”, with the European Ryder Cup captain admitting he’s been buoyed by the world number 11’s impressive form in the early weeks of 2018.

Much has been made of McIlroy’s much-hyped return in the UAE this month, following a three-month injury absence.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman played at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and looked fit, healthy and at ease with his swing having curtailed his 2017 season following the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

A niggling rib injury was the reason given by the 28-year-old for cutting short his campaign, although ahead of his long-awaited return in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy also revealed he had also been dealing with a minor heart irregularity.

Neither that or an extended break from the game seem to have left him rusty as the four-time major winner finished tied third in the capital, before missing out on a third Dubai title by one stroke as he had to settle for second place at Emirates Golf Club behind China’s Li Haotong.

Thomas Bjorn (r) has been impressed by Rory McIlroy this month

He really should have lifted that third title as he led by two shots after the 10th hole of the final round on the Majlis course, but Bjorn is hugely encouraged by the early performances of a man who will surely be a key figure in his Ryder Cup squad in September.

“The most encouraging thing I think is that Rory’s in a place where you feel he wants to play a lot of golf. And in that position, he’s a very dangerous as a golfer,” Bjorn told Sport360 at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, where he was playing in the Gary Player Invitational.

“He hasn’t missed a gym session, he looks great health wise and great technically. He’s enjoying being on the golf course.”

McIlroy hasn’t won a title since the 2016 Tour Championship 16 months ago, while he hasn’t tasted major success since 2014’s PGA Championship.

His win-less 2017 was the first year since turning professional in 2009 he failed to taste victory, but Bjorn believes the County Down native has rediscovered his form and fire.

“I’m sure he will go away from the Middle East with the situations he got himself in, that he maybe wanted a little more,” added the Dane, 46.

“But in general it was two fantastic weeks and it shows a lot about his talent and character that he comes out after such a long layoff and is ready to play with the best in the world.

“It’s hard not to predict great things for him this year, especially because there’s a smile on his face, a willingness to play golf and wanting to be there. When Rory McIlroy’s in a good place with everything, he’s a very difficult competitor to deal with.

“I think we make a lot out of Rory and we talk a lot about him. He’s a wonderful golfer and he obviously struggled with his injuries last year, and always feeling like he was probably a little bit behind when he got to tournaments.

“He showed up last week, I had a good chat with him at the DP World Tour Championship, I saw him there and I saw him last week; and to see him fit and healthy and desperate to play golf, that’s how you want to see him.”

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