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Rory McIlroy: From boy to £25m superstar

Sensational story of a young life devoted to scaling the game's dizzy heights

By Karl McGinty

Rory McIlroy began competing when he was a child and scored his first notable international win in the nine to 10 age division at the World Championships in Miami, Florida.

At age 11, he was shooting level par around his home course's par-69 layout.

By the time he won the 2002 Ulster Boys Championship two years later, his handicap was at scratch.

In 2004, McIlroy was on Europe's winning team at the Junior Ryder Cup and he played in his first professional event, the 2005 British Masters, at age 15. That same year, his score of 61 – 11-under par – set a record at the North of Ireland Amateur Open at Royal Portrush, besting the previous mark by three shots.

At 16, he became the youngest player to win the prestigious West of Ireland Championship and the Irish Close Championship – then successfully defended both the following year.

He took home the 2006 European Amateur crown as well and, the following week, was on holiday with his parents in Spain when Tiger Woods won that year's Open at Royal Liverpool.

The following year, McIlroy won the silver medal as leading amateur at The Open in Carnoustie, sharing the podium with Pádraig Harrington as the Dubliner was crowned the Republic's first Major Champion in 60 years.

His last event as an amateur was in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal Co Down, where a US team that included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson won by a point.

With a record-breaking amateur run under his belt, McIlroy started setting records in the professional arena.

He turned pro one day before the British Masters at The Belfry and became the youngest affiliate member to ever earn a European Tour card by finishing third in his second event, the Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

Beaten only in sudden-death at the Omega European Masters in August 2008, three months later McIlroy became the youngest player to ever rank among the world's Top 50 golfers when he reached a three-man play-off at the Hong Kong Open.

In 2009, McIlroy picked up his first professional tournament win at the Dubai Desert Classic and he followed that up by claiming his first victory in the US at the Quail Hollow Championship in April 2010, with sensational rounds of 66 and 62 at the weekend.

After a strong start at The Masters in 2011, McIlroy famously imploded on the Sunday, taking him from a four-shot lead overnight to 15th.

Just 70 days later, however, he more than atoned with a record-shattering US Open win at Congressional.

His score of 268 remains the lowest 72-hole total, a record previously held by Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, while at 16 under, he's the lowest finisher in relation to par.

McIlroy won the Hong Kong Open the following November, then made it to World No 1 in March 2012 with a memorable second PGA Tour win at The Honda Classic.

He held it for a total of seven weeks that spring before vaulting back to the top of the rankings with his second record-breaking Major win at the US PGA at Kiawah Island that August, again winning by a whopping eight strokes.

After quick-fire wins at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships, two of the US Tour's lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs, McIlroy then prevailed in the Race to Dubai finale, the DP World Tour Championship, to finish top of the 2012 money lists in America and Europe.

He remained on top of the world for 32 continuous weeks from the US PGA to mid-March 2013, when Tiger Woods surged back to No 1 as the Holywood star grappled with an ailing golf game and new clubs.

After playing his way back into form in the second half of 2013, McIlroy picked up his first win of a fraught year that December, coming from behind with a birdie at the last to beat Adam Scott by a stroke at the Australian Open in Sydney.

McIlroy popped the question to girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki on New Year's Eve, called off their engagement on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship, then pulled off a stunning sixth European Tour victory the following Sunday, coming from seven behind after 54 holes to win.

Yesterday, as he joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in history by becoming only the third player to win three different Major Championships by the age of 25, McIlroy collected a cheque for £975,000 along with the Claret Jug, boosting his career earnings on the golf course to a whopping £25million.

Belfast Telegraph


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