Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

PGA gong one of many for Rory McIlroy

HONG KONG - NOVEMBER 14: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in action during Pro-Am of the UBS Hong Kong Open at The Hong Kong Golf Club on November 14, 2012 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Awards are coming thick and fast for Rory McIlroy, who has been named Player of the Year by the PGA of America — yet his competitive edge won't be blunted by the accolades or his stellar achievements in 2012.

Though he copper-fastened the Race to Dubai title in Singapore, McIlroy, 23, believes there's important business still to be done, not least the defence of the UBS Hong Kong Open title he won in spectacular fashion last year.

The DP World Championship, next week's season finale in Dubai, offers an ample $8m purse and enough prestige to keep even the most world-weary of Europe's golfing millionaires interested.

By comparison, the field in Hong Kong plays for a fraction of that amount, just $1.56m, while this year's $260,638 winner's cheque is $81,000 lower than the first prize collected by McIlroy last November.

That's irrelevant to McIlroy, however, and not because he and other front-rank players, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, YE Yang and American guest star Matt Kuchar are unlikely to have travelled at their own expense, if you get the drift.

The Holywood star fell in love with this atmospheric venue from the moment he first played it during the 2005 Faldo Series and it has inspired him to play some fabulous golf since then.

“That first visit was a wonderful experience. We actually stayed in the clubhouse,” he said, adding: “There's always a great buzz coming to Hong Kong and the course here is one of my favourite on Tour.”

Those words are backed up by McIlroy's results at Fanling, where he went within a whisker of notching his first win as a professional in 2008, losing out only in a thrilling three-way play-off to China's Wen-Tang Lin.

The Ulsterman finished second to Gregory Bourdy on his next visit, then sixth behind Ian Poulter in 2010, before crowning last year's victory by chipping in for birdie from a greenside bunker at 18 for a fabulous 65.

McIlroy bravely defied a suspected dose of Dengue fever on that occasion, yet he expects to be in top shape this week, having grappled with an uncomfortable head cold as he finished third in Singapore behind Italian teenager Matteo Manassero. By beating Louis Oosthuizen on the third hole of sudden death, Manassero ensured McIlroy would win the Harry Vardon Trophy, which since 1937 has been awarded to the winner of Europe's Order of Merit.

Confusingly, it's the second Harry Vardon Trophy McIlroy has collected this winter.

He's also won the PGA of America's version, which (also since 1937) goes to the golfer with the best adjusted scoring average over a minimum 60 rounds — McIlroy's adjusted average in 2012 was 68.87.

Frankly, he's going to receive a bamboozling alphabet soup of honours this winter.

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