That was good enough for a share of the lead alongside Japan's Hideto Tanihara after the first round. "I'll celebrate with some water, I think", said the world number 18.
McIlroy insisted that his patience had again been a useful asset, and he believes the work he has put in on his game during his three-and-a-half month winter break has been time well spent on the range.
Rory McIlroy need not have bothered to tell reporters that he is feeling "rejuvenated and refocused". But I did well. I've been working hard on the game, but the golf swing feels like it's finally getting back to where it was.
Fleetwood proved to be deadly accurate from tee to green, and admitted he was delighted to be so accurate so early in the season. His victory was ever more impressive with McIlroy breathing down his neck on the final day, however Dunne secured a three stroke victory over the major victor, chipping in from the outskirts of the 18th green. "Just a good ball-striking round and nice to start the year off like that".
"It's probably better, in fact, to go somewhere else to try and get rid of the rust". I felt like I played solid.
"Eighteen greens doesn't happen very often so nice to do it around here".
"All in all, it was another great round and another really good confidence builder - not just for this week but for the rest of the season as well". I know the work I've put in and know I'm as prepared as I ever have been. But I putted really well. It's felt like a while since I've won and just to give myself these chances; I gave myself a chance at the end of the year at Close House and wasn't able to do it. Paul Dunne played too well for me.
England's Ross Fisher produced a seven-under-par round to move into the joint lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
In the PGA Tour's year-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, the American almost aced a 433-yard par-4 hole en route to winning the champions-only event by a whopping eight shots over Jon Rahm. The Belgian delivered five birdies and kept his scorecard bogey-free around the pristine National Course, which he described as "perfect", post-round.
"I'm not here to make a statement", he said. "It seems like I've got good memories of every hole so it's about drawing from those past experiences".