As he’d predicted on the eve of the event, there was no hiding Rory McIlroy’s disappointment as the world No 2 missed out on a successful title defence in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
At the same time, however, the 26-year-old is far from being in the doldrums as he heads to America to start the build up for this year’s Masters.
In eight rounds in the Middle East, McIlroy broke par seven times and was a combined 29-under-par. Even the odd round out - the second circuit here - was a level-par effort.
“It was a decent weekend and decent way to play the last 27 holes,” said the four-time major winner after signing off with a 65 for a 15-under-par 273 total. “The game feels in decent shape, though I still have a few things to work on.
“My wedge play and short game around the greens has been good, but I’m struggling with the driver a little bit, so just want to try and work on that during my week off and get ready for LA (the Northern Trust Open at Riviera) in a couple week’s time.”
He then tees up in two events in Florida - the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens then the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami.
“First and foremost, I’m looking forward to spending a week in my own bed,” he said of heading to his home in Florida, having spent just one night there since September.
“It will be also good starting over there with three really good, tough events. The scoring is relatively tough in those three tournaments, so I’m looking forward to getting into that.
“It’s been nice to shake the rust off these last couple of weeks. It gives me a good understanding of what I need to do going into the next few weeks.
“It’s been a real helpful exercise in that way. It would have been nice to come away with a win, but it’s been a couple of solid performances.
“I still feel like there’s a lot to work on going into the next few weeks and hopefully I can put some good work in next week and feel sharp going into Riviera.
“I need to work on my driving and my putting, but, if everything else can stay where it is, I feel like I should get a good run in the States.”
Bidding to equal Ernie Els’s record of three triumphs in this event, McIlroy had started out in the final round eight shots off the lead and needing to leapfrop 20 players to climb to the top of the leaderboard.
He missed good birdie chances at the second and third before making three gains in a row from the fourth to be out in 32. Another hat-trick of birdies from the 13th was followed by his eighth of the round at the 17th but he was disappointed to finish with a par-5. “I made a wrong decision off the tee by not hitting driver,” he said of that.
Asked if he felt that he’d felt at any time during the round that he could still hang on to this title, McIlroy replied: “Yeah, I felt like it was on for sure, but I just didn’t quite do enough.”
“It’s sort of been a week of what could have been. There was a lot of really good golf in there, but I just made a few too many mistakes as well.”