RORY McILROY has revealed how the unlikely combination of Andre Agassi, Alex Ferguson and twice-daily gym sessions allowed him to begin 2014 as he finished 2013 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
McIlroy ended a miserable 2013 on a professional and personal high, winning his first tournament of the year by edging out Masters champion Adam Scott in the Australian Open and then getting engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki on New Year's Eve.
But as Wozniacki turned her attention to tennis' Australian Open, McIlroy headed to Dubai for 10 days of intense pre-season preparation.
Asked to outline a routine day, McIlroy said: "It's usually in the gym at seven, and then I'm in there for like an hour and a half, get some breakfast, go to the course.
"I'll probably practice, hit balls and work on my short game from maybe 10 until one and get some lunch and go out and play some holes, play nine or play 18, and then some days I'll be back at the gym from 5.30 to seven."
McIlroy did at least allow himself some time to read before turning out the lights, with autobiographies of Agassi and Ferguson and 'Tales from the Secret Footballer' on his bedside table.
When he returned to competitive action yesterday, the result was a flawless 70 that deserved better after a superb display of driving which meant the 24-year-old avoided most of the thick rough labelled "dangerous" by Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia.
"I hit it long and straight and just did not take advantage of some of the opportunities, especially on the last two holes," said McIlroy, who was three off the lead shared by England's Matthew Baldwin, France's Romain Wattel and Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
England's Tommy Fleetwood made the most of his chance to impress Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but may not get the full benefit.
Fleetwood, who led going into the final round of the Volvo Champions in Durban on Sunday before finishing joint third, carded a superb second round of 65 to finish six under par, three shots off the lead held by Scotland's Craig Lee.
But as well as McGinley, Fleetwood was playing with fellow Nike professional Thorbjorn Olesen and the pair turned up in almost identical clothes, much to the confusion of McGinley.
"He kept saying good shot, but he never knew which one it was," joked Fleetwood, who won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Ryder Cup venue Gleneagles last year.
"He kept throwing a name out there and we're like 'no, no, Paul, it was the other one.' We dressed the same yesterday and today, we couldn't believe it. Nike need a few more clothes maybe."
McGinley hit a 72, leaving him five shots off Lee on four under par.