Fresh from his triumph as the best amateur in The Open golf championship, bright new Ulster star Rory McIlroy tells Claire McNeilly of his hopes to return home as The Open winner in under a decade
Ulster's new golf sensation, Rory McIlroy, believes he will be an Open champion one day. But the 18-year-old boy wonder is shrewd enough to know it's going to take time - as he says, "give me five or 10 years" - to land a major.
Back home following his Silver Medal-winning performance in The Open Championship at Carnoustie, the Co Down teenager revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that the events of the past week may have changed his life forever.
"It's pretty surreal to see yourself on the front pages of newspapers every day," he said as the plaudits and congratulatory messages continued to pour in.
"It's quite weird, but hopefully it's something I'll be able to get used to."
He added: "It might be the week that changed my life. We'll have to wait and see - but I'm just really looking forward to what comes next."
McIlroy's heroics on the legendary Scottish links course, playing alongside the game's greatest players, earned him a respectable joint 42nd place.
He was the only amateur in the field to make the cut and a 68 in the first round on Thursday bettered a host of superstars - including the world's number one golfer, Tiger Woods.
McIlroy was awarded the Silver Medal as top amateur on Sunday afternoon and stood beside the new Open champion, Dubliner Padraig Harrington.
The Emerald Isle has never been so well represented on the winners' podium and McIlroy's parents, Rosie and Gerry, were there to savour the moment.
Even so, there was still a tinge of disappointment for the teenager, who had been hoping to make the top 10 and thus secure entry for next year's Open at Royal Birkdale.
"I know I was playing well going into The Open," he said.
"I was on the Ireland team that had just won the European Team Championship and I just knew if I went in there I would do well.
"On the second day, I probably didn't play very well. If I had shot a better score on the second round, I would've done way better and I would've probably finished a lot higher at the end.
"But, I mean, to go out and shoot 68 and be ahead of Tiger after the first round was pretty special anyway."
McIlroy's talent has drawn comparisons to heavyweights like Dungannon's Darren Clarke, whose encouragement has stood him in good stead.
"Being from here, he's done so well and he's supported me," he revealed.
"There's also Nick Faldo... Graeme McDowell, Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington.
"If they're playing a tournament that I'm playing in, we'd go out for dinner or we'd play practice rounds together.
"I think to have relationships with those guys at such a young age is great for me."
McIlroy, an only child, was just two years old when his father, a keen golfer, first took him to the local golf course to "hit balls around" .
But it was another eight years before his son demonstrated the skill that would make seasoned observers sit up and take notice.
"I was always very good (at golf) for my age," said Rory.
"But when I went over to America and won the World Under 10s, then obviously everything snowballed from there.
"I started winning tournaments over here, in England and the States and it has got me where I am now."
In 2005, Rory became the youngest winner of both the West of Ireland Championship and the Irish Close Championship.
And, in July of that year, he made back page headlines when he fired a course record of 61 at Royal Portrush.
The same year, he made his first appearance in a European Tour event a few days after turning 16, in the British Masters.
He made the cut on the European Tour for the first time as a 17-year-old at the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic - but his amateur status meant he had to forgo prize-money of more than £5,000.
All that will change when he turns professional later this year.
ISM (International Sports Management), who already have Darren Clarke on their books, are favourites for the job of handling him.
But the Walker Cup, being staged at Royal County Down in September, is his immediate concern.
"It probably will be harder (than The Open), because it's at home," he admitted.
"But I usually play well under pressure so I should do well. I think we've got a good team, so it would be a great way to end my amateur career if we were able to win it."