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McIlroy’s happy return

Twelve months ago Rory McIlroy journeyed high into the Swiss Alps a fresh-faced youngster and one of the rising new stars on the European Tour.

Though there was the agony of letting slip victory in the European Masters, McIlroy travelled back down the mountains with a new found maturity, and with the golf world now at his feet.

The then 19-year-old was ranked 172nd in the world but after losing a two-hole play-off to Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin, McIlroy soared 61 places to 111th position.

His year continued to snowball with McIlroy ending the season 36th on the Order of Merit and just places higher on the world rankings to assure himself starts in all four Majors for 2009.

“When I look back, I have great memories of last year's European Masters as it was really the start of everything good for me,” said McIlroy.

“I didn't win the tournament but I took a lot of positives from this event. Of course, I was very disappointed I didn't win but ever since then I've kicked on and it was in Switzerland when I started to play really, really well.

“I was proud to of the way I conducted myself considering the disappointment and though I wasn't feeling too good about myself, I got over it.

“Besides I had finished third nearly a year earlier at the Dunhill and Switzerland last year was the first time I'd been in contention.

“I had a four shot lead going into the last round and I should have won but then that's the way this game goes.

“Also it's nice coming back this week with a first win because if I had of come back here to Switzerland without that first victory I would not have been as happy as I am now about my career.”

McIlroy tees-up in this year's €2m tournament the second highest world-ranked player at Number 24 behind the 10th ranked Lee Westwood contesting the inaugural co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event to be held in Europe.

The duo are also three and four on the Race to Dubai money list and looking to take full advantage in the absence of the injured leading pair of Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey.

As McIlroy focuses also on making amends for his Swiss downturn a year ago, fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin was observed trying out three belly-putters on the practice putting green yesterday.

The Ballyclare golfer is in Switzerland on a maiden visit and looking still for that maiden Tour win. Maybin's also excited about the start of the Ryder Cup qualifying process.

“You have to dream big out here so the start of qualifying for the Ryder Cup has very much got me excited,” he said.

Other Irish in the field and vying for the €333,330 first prize cheque include Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Micheal Hoey, Paul McGinley and Gary Murphy.

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