Rory McIlroy's comeback ahead of schedule in Abu Dhabi

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Rory McIlroy's comeback ahead of schedule in Abu Dhabi

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Rory McIlroy's comeback ahead of schedule in Abu Dhabi

  

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Rory McIlroy is 36 holes into his “comeback” and two things are certain – there’s nothing wrong with his long game and he’s back to full fitness.

With just a little work on his putting, McIlroy looks like he could be a huge factor in every tournament he enters this season.

The former World No. 1 eagled the final hole to shoot a 6-under 66 to get into contention at the $3 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He sits on 9 under, three shots off Thomas Pieters’ lead.

McIlroy, who is making his first competitive start in three months, could easily have shot a 62 if he had taken advantage of his birdie opportunities, especially on the back nine.

The four-time major champion played alongside defending champion Tommy Fleetwood and Dustin Johnson. Johnson shot 64 while Fleetwood returned a 68.

“He’s the No. 1 player in the world and Tommy’s playing so well,” McIlroy said. “I was just trying to keep up with them both and felt like I did a pretty good job of that.

“The last two days have been really nice to see the body of work that I have put in over these last couple of months. It’s starting to pay off and I feel like I’m in a good position.”

McIlroy could have birdied the first seven holes of his back nine, but had to settle for just two at the 10th and 11th before he holed a 15-foot eagle putt at the last.

“Felt like I gave myself tons of chances on the back nine and it was sort of difficult to convert them. I always struggle to read these greens. I feel like I’m hitting good putts and they are just sliding by the edges. I stayed patient and feel like I got what I deserved on the last for staying so patient.”

McIlroy has seven top-10 finishes in Abu Dhabi, including four seconds. He missed the cut and was 11th in his other two starts.

It’ll be interesting to see who beats him. Whoever it is will have to play well, especially if McIlroy’s putting starts to match his peerless long game.

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