European Masters: Rory McIlroy happy to be living the superstar life
Three years ago, Rory McIlroy travelled high into the Swiss Alps, a fresh-face young lad setting out on a professional career.
McIlroy suffered the enormous disappointment of losing the Omega European Masters in a play-off to Frenchman Jean Francios Lucquin but the manner in which he conducted himself saw him depart the Alpine course a man.
Fast forward three years and it was if a movie star had stepped onto the first tee of the Crans-sur-Sierre course such was the interest in the current US Open champion as he took his place in the Pro-Am.
McIlroy's certainly come a long way since 2008 as he teed-up in the company of Omega President, Stephen Urqhardt, Tournament Director, Yves Mittaz and Italian Antonio Bulgheroni, owner of Lindt chocolates, President of one of Italy's largest banks and also President of Varese GC.
However, the 22-year old McIlroy, who had parents Gerry and Rosie looking on, was taking it all in his stride.
“A few things change when you win a Major, as your profile goes up a couple of levels,” he said.
“People are interested and want to know how you live your life. But it's fine. I'm happy to be in the position that I’m in and the good news is that I can focus on golf and try to win a few tournaments now to the end of the year.”
Like McIlroy, Darren Clarke has had two weeks off since he missed the halfway cut in last month's PGA Championship in Atlanta.
His first five days were spent fishing in Donegal while fiancee, Alison Campbell enjoyed the comforts of their hotel.
“Alison likes going to the spa so places I now go fishing are dictated by a nice spa close by,” he laughed.
But while the European Masters marks the start of the 2012 Ryder Cup qualifying process, it also is the final qualifying event for the Vivendi Seve Trophy later this month in Versailles.
McIlroy has, in fact, declined the invitation to play on on Paul McGinley's GB&I team. Clarke is lying first on one of two qualifying points table and with automatic selection finishing this Sunday in Switzerland, he is in if he wants.
However, Clarke is hosting a two-day corporate outing at the Archerfield course outside Edinburgh on the Monday and Tuesday after the Vivendi Seve Trophy concludes on September 18.
“When I set out my schedule I didn't know I was going to win The Open, and things have now changed and I am into the Vivendi team,” he said.
“I haven't spoken to Paul but, because the Vivendi this year is all about honouring Seve, I am doing my utmost to play, but then I don't like breaking promises.”
Clarke will play the opening two rounds of the European Masters in the company of Italian stallion, Matteo Manassero and England's Ollie Fisher, winner of the recent Czech Open.
McIlroy partners defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and young Korean Noh Seung-yul in the first two rounds, while Westwood is with Swede Alex Noren and Thai Thongchai Jaidee and Clarke with 18-year-old Matteo Manassero and recent winner Oliver Fisher.
Meanwhile, Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin returns to competition at this event after a month off for his honeymoon.