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How a teenage Rory McIlroy announced his arrival in style during 2007 Open at Carnoustie

 

By Deric Henderson

It is 11 years since he officially announced himself on the world stage, just as the man who once dominated it departed, declaring that he'd had enough thrashing around in the rough.

The great Spanish gladiator, at one time the most exciting player on the planet, was then a sad, sad sight struggling to make the cut. He couldn't take the humiliation anymore.

So goodbye Seve Ballesteros and hello Rory McIlroy, who left Carnoustie with the Silver Medal in his pocket after finishing as the top amateur, and with the world at his feet.

Padraig Harrington was the deserving winner of the 2007 Open and returns to the Scottish venue this week aged 47 with his best days almost certainly behind him, and probably looking ahead to taking his place on the lucrative US Champions Tour - maybe following in the footsteps of Darren Clarke, another former Open winner, who is likely to spend much more time on the far side of the Atlantic after he turns 50 next month.

McIlroy, whom Clarke once mentored, was 18 and chubby faced with thick curly locks when he teed up at the toughest course on The Open rota to shoot 68, 76, 73 and a level-par 72 to finish in 42nd place.

The players who featured regularly on the European leaderboards had all heard the reports about this well-mannered, swashbuckling teenager from Northern Ireland who was then preparing to turn professional after the Walker Cup at Royal County Down was out of the way.

But once they caught sight of him going about his business on those famous links near Dundee, they knew he was a bit special.

The American Scott Verplank, who played with him on the final round, recalled: "He was a nice kid, but I just remember thinking how talented he was. I had never seen an 18-year-old hit the ball like he could hit it. He could hit the ball 330 yards, straight, and I was like, 'Wow'. I also remember his big old mop of hair.

"I told him when we finished, 'Just keep doing what you're doing and I think you'll be okay'. Since that day, I've been a fan.

"I remember the drive he hit at the 18th. It left him like an eight iron into the green.

"It got to the end of the tournament. Sergio (Garcia) was hitting a two iron off the tee and a two iron into the green. I was in the hotel watching, saying, 'Come on, Sergio, hit a driver just like this Rory McIlroy kid earlier'. Sergio stuck to his game plan, but didn't win."

Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler, his first manager, couldn't believe McIlroy's level of self-confidence, even back then when they met for a chat outside the Carnoustie clubhouse.

Chandler recalled: "He asked me if he could buy a house. He hadn't turned pro yet, but he said, 'I think I should get a foot on the ladder'.

"He was so grown up for an 18-year-old and had amazing foresight to know he would have the money to buy one when he went pro. He was an amazingly confident kid.

"I'd known him since he was 13. He went into Darren's foundation then with a one or two handicap, and he was tiny. He had more to say than everyone else put together, in a nice way.

"He was full of vim, vigour and youthful exuberance. He wasn't fazed by being in Darren's company. It was cool for a 13-year-old to have Darren Clarke's number."

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