Rory McIlroy turns 21 tomorrow, but he came of age as a golfing superstar at Quail Hollow yesterday as he swooped for a spectacular first victory on the PGA Tour.
The Holywood starlet left a world class field, including Masters hero Phil Mickelson, for dead with a scorching final round 62, in the process shattering the course record at one of the most challenging venues on the US PGA Tour to beat the American into second place by four shots and with Argentina's Angel Cabrera one shot further back.
McIlroy boosted his failing confidence and propelled himself into contention at the Quail Hollow Championship with a splendid 66 on Saturday, but he played literally the round of his life yesterday.
Significantly, McIlroy has become the youngest man to win on the US Tour since Tiger Woods claimed his first title at the Las Vegas invitational in 1996.
After missing the cut on Friday, Tiger Woods said he'd take the opportunity to watch the telecast of the tournament, joking that he'd let those playing for the title show him how it's done.
Well eat your heart out Tiger. If Woods tuned in, he saw his successor as World No 1 in action. McIlroy's golf was utterly magnificent as he claimed a second win as a professional to go with last year's Dubai Desert Classic.
He drove the ball straight and long, hit his irons with uncanny accuracy and, for once, putted with authority. Golf hasn't seen a performance as exciting as this from a first-time winner on Tour since Tiger made his own breakthrough 13 years ago.
It was difficult to imagine that this was the same tousle-haired youngster who was so deep in despair after slumping to his second successive missed cut at Augusta that he wanted to take a complete six week break from a game which was driving him crazy.
Yet, remarkably, it took an eagle three at seven, his 16th hole, on Friday to propel McIlroy through to the weekend right on the cut mark.
“That probably was the most important hole of my season,” he'd say on Saturday.
Make that the most important of his life, as it gave McIlroy an opportunity to show the world and, more importantly, himself what he can achieve as he landed 16 birdies over the weekend.
Staggeringly, McIlroy had 12 threes on his card yesterday, the most spectacular of them coming at Quail Hollow's 15th hole, where he made nonsense of recent talk about the potentially debilitating effects of a back injury by ripping his tee shot 353 yards down the fairway.
Next came an outrageous 207-yard 5-iron to inside four feet and in went the putt.
On romped McIlroy to The Green Mile, making nonsense of its reputation as one of the most harrowing stretches in golf by shooting three unforgettable threes.
Roll on Sawgrass and this week's Players Championship.
Nobody can live with Rory McIlroy on this form.
Like McIlroy, Padraig Harrington missed the cut at The Masters, but he also got back on the birdie trail at the weekend in Quail Hollow, posting a satisfying closing 68, his first sub-par round on any Sunday this season to finish in a seven-way tie for seventh.
Harrington actually got within one shot of McIlroy and Cabrera at the top of the leaderboard as he played his first 16 holes in six-under, courtesy of a splendid eagle three at seven and four birdies.
Though he'd stumble to back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17, leaving the Dubliner one shy of his playing companion Rickie Fowler's splendid closing 67, Harrington showed he's within touching distance of his ‘A' game.
Harrington and many of today's top players, including Jim Furyk, joined the crowds around the final hole to watch McIlroy complete one of the most sensational golf rounds in history.
It's staggering to think that the youngster went into the weekend one over par and finished the tournament 36 holes later on 15-under, a country mile ahead of Mickelson and another formidable Major Champion Angel Cabrera.
A superstar is born.