Maturing McIlroy ready to play percentage game

DUBAI Wed Feb 8, 2012 9:59am EST

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his shot from the eighth tee during the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club January 29, 2012. REUTERS/Nikhil Monteiro

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his shot from the eighth tee during the final round of the Abu Dhabi Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club January 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

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DUBAI (Reuters) - World number two Rory McIlroy said a more mature approach to his game can help him add to his trophy haul when he makes his seventh straight appearance at the Dubai Desert Classic Thursday.

McIlroy, 22, first appeared at the Dubai tournament as a precocious 16-year-old in 2006 and won the event in 2009 for his first European Tour win.

The Briton then bounced back from an agonizing near-miss at last year's U.S. Masters to romp to a record eight-shot triumph at the U.S. Open.

"I feel like I've definitely matured a lot this past year as a golfer and probably just as a person as well," Northern Irishman McIlory told reporters Wednesday at the Majlis course in Dubai.

"I feel like I can play more controlled golf when I need to. When you're not playing as well, you need to know your limitations, reel it back in a little bit and play the percentages a bit more."

This approach worked for McIlroy at January's Abu Dhabi Championship where only a two-stroke penalty denied him victory.

"I don't feel like the golf that I played in Abu Dhabi deserved to win," said McIlory.

"I scored very well and was able to get myself into contention, which was great."

McIlroy was paired with 14-times major winner Tiger Woods in three out of four rounds in Abu Dhabi and he was full of praise for the former world number one.

"I'd spent a little bit of time with him before that, but not as much as I did then," said McIlroy.

"It was nice to play with him, and I felt pretty relaxed out there in his company, and we chatted the whole way around."

Woods has sunk to 18th in the world rankings and has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, suffering a collapse in form in the wake of revelations about his private life.

But he looked close to hitting top form after taking a share for third in Abu Dhabi and plays in this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.

"Pebble at this time of the year can be a bit of a lottery, with the weather and you've got the three courses, so you don't really know what to expect," said McIlroy.

"But he's got a great record at Pebble. What I've seen of him in Abu Dhabi, it looks like he's well on his way to returning to some great form."

(Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Justin Palmer)

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