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January 21, 2016

Rory McIlroy

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Q. 6-under 66, two-month break, how happy are you with it?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's a great way to start the year. I felt in practice last week in Dubai that I was swinging well and I really came back mentally refreshed and really excited to play again. I think that showed out there today. I was really excited to get going, especially playing in a group like that, first round of the year. So couldn't be happier.

Q. Seems when you're really at the top of your form, you drive the ball extraordinarily well and it seemed like out there today on this big, golf course, your driving was tiptop again.
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I drove the ball really well. I think that's one of the secrets of this golf course. If you can drive the ball well and keep it in play, because you can see if you do hit it into the rough it makes it awfully difficult, even just to reach the green. I drove the ball well and I'll need to keep doing that over the next three days to have a chance.

Q. You have driven it well here in the past, four second-place finishes. How keen are you to change that and get that first win here in Abu Dhabi?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, this is my ninth time in Abu Dhabi. I've played every year since 2008. It's a great way to start the year. I've played well here. Just haven't been able to get the victory. Hopefully I can change that this year, and to start with a win here to start the season would be fantastic. So fingers crossed I can play like that over the next three days.

Q. A few words on what it's like, such an exciting first week of the year, playing alongside Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, three of the top six players of the world. Does it make it that extra bit special?
RORY McILROY: It does, it really does. I said yesterday, the field that they are able to assemble this year, it gives the start of the year -- especially for me, first round of the year, it just gives it that something extra.

I've experienced it in the past with Rickie last year, with Tiger a couple of times in previous years, and just gives that you little bit of instead of maybe a quiet first nine holes and trying to play your way into it, you're sort of concentrating right from the get-go. So it's a nice way to focus the mind and get down to it.

It was a really nice way to start. I played really well, really solid from tee-to-green. I only missed one green out there and didn't miss many fairways. Around this golf course that's what you need to do, because as you've seen out there, even today, if you do hit it in the rough, it's hard enough just to get to the green, let alone to get it close to the pin. If I can keep driving it like that today, over the next three days, then hopefully that will set me up for a good week.

Q. And the putter seemed to behave itself?
RORY McILROY: I felt good with the putter. I've done a lot of practice the last two weeks getting ready for here. It's all went really well. I'm really happy with where my game's at. It's just a matter of trying to shake any sort of rust off. I didn't see much out there but just trying to get a little bit better each and every day and hopefully that all adds up to hopefully a good finish on Sunday.

Q. There was a since of excitement at having the top three players together right from the get-go. Has it worked out a great experience, playing alongside Jordan and Rickie right from the start?
RORY McILROY: It has. It's great. Every year this tournament's able to assemble a great field, like the one that we have this week. And to play with Jordan and Rickie today, I played the first two rounds of the year with Rickie last year, played with Tiger the first two rounds in the previous years.

So there's always a little extra bit of excitement and buzz around the group whenever you tee off. I'm happy to get going and happy to get off to such a solid start.

Q. That's a fantastic way to start the year. Did you surprise yourself at all with the efficiency of it all today?
RORY McILROY: Not really, no. Wasn't surprising to me. Might have been surprising to some other people after a two-month layoff. This is the way I've been hitting it in practice. It's the way I've been playing. It's the way I've been feeling out on the golf course.

I keep saying, there's no reason why I can't bring that confidence from the range and practice rounds into the real thing, and today I was able to do that.

Q. Your first competitive round since lag laser ^ eye surgery. What dynamic did that bring to it?
RORY McILROY: I'm not sure. I mean, I feel like even with contact lenses, I saw pretty well. But there was just times when I would suffer from hayfever and it would get a little bit blurry. I just thought more than anything else, it will help with the travel, not having to worry about contact lenses, putting them in, taking them out at night.

But I mean, everything seems -- I don't feel like it's made much of a difference for my vision far, far away, like with driver distance. But I think up close, it's made everything that little bit sharper. So it can only help.

Q. Particularly with things like reading greens and that aspect?
RORY McILROY: Definitely. The greens here, I've always struggled on them a little bit. I don't know if it's a coloration thing or if it's just the first week of the year and you're just sort of trying to get back into it. But felt like I read most of the greens out there pretty well today and held a few nice putts. Missed a couple, but I won't complain about that.

Q. When you've put your clubs away for eight weeks as you did and then you take them out for the first time and hit balls on the range, how quickly are you back into the rhythm of it and striking the ball as you would want to? Is there a bit of a period?
RORY McILROY: It depends on the year. There's been times where it's taken me at least four or five days to find the middle of the clubface, and there's been times where it's taken me a couple of hours and I'm right back into it.

Q. This time?
RORY McILROY: This time it was closer to the latter. It was very quick. I felt like I was hitting the ball very well. A couple little things I was just working on and continued to work on through DP World in November.

Yeah, I maybe made a few swings at home, maybe like a couple days before coming out to Dubai. But apart from that, it was just -- I knew what I wanted to work on. I think the consistency of my swing is something that's got much better over the past few years, and I feel that's why I can take a layoff and come back.

Q. How important to you is it to make a statement right at the start of the year, in exactly the same way as Jordan Spieth did in Hawai'i?
RORY McILROY: You know, I don't know if it's about making a statement, but I just want to play well. I want to compete each and every week. I felt really ready to come out and play well here this week. I got off to a great start. Obviously there's still a long way to go, but I want to win every tournament I play. It's not about making statements or trying to lay down markers. It's just about trying to play the best that I can. I know if I do that, hopefully there's a lot of wins to come.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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