The familiar environs of the Emirates Golf Club is where Rory McIlroy hopes this week to end a streak of three straight second-place finishes on the European Tour.

The Desert Dubai Classic is the tournament McIlroy has played the most often, including twice as an amateur. It is also where he notched his first win as a pro in 2009, and finished in the top-10 every year since.

"I am disappointed if I don't win, to be honest," he said on Wednesday, the day before the classic starts. "You're not here to try to finish in the top five.

"I'd definitely like to break the runners-up duck the right way than the wrong way. We'll see. But I'm comfortable on this golf course, and I have good memories here, and I seem to play the course very well."

McIlroy was runner-up in the World Tour Championship in November, the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December, and the Abu Dhabi Championship two weeks ago in his first start of the year.

To finish the tour's desert swing a winner again, he will have to beat the likes of world No. 2 Henrik Stenson, No. 5 Sergio Garcia, No. 12 Martin Kaymer, and two-time defending champion Stephen Gallacher, who is a remarkable 55-under par in his last three tournaments on the Majlis course at Emirates.

Then he has a date in a Dublin court next week, as his legal battle with Horizon Sports, his former management company, inches toward a final judgement.

McIlroy said he was trying not to think of the court case until after the tournament.

"To be honest, I've been concentrating on my golf and practice, and that stuff is much more important to me than what's going to happen next week," he said.

"I will be relieved when this (case) is over. It's not something that I would want anyone to go through. I'm going to be heading to the States regardless, with it off my mind and not having to deal with it or think about it anymore."

The classic also marks the first start of the year for Europe Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell. Ernie Els, a three-time classic winner, and holder of the course record of 11-under par 61, is also entered.