GOLF­ING

PRO­FILE

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - PROFILE -

Born in Holy­wood, North­ern Ire­land, in

May 1989, the only child of Gerry and Rosie, McIl­roy en­joyed a dis­tin­guished am­a­teur ca­reer, in­clud­ing win­ning the sil­ver medal for low am­a­teur at the

2007 Open Cham­pi­onship. He turned pro­fes­sional that Septem­ber. He won for the first time on the Euro­pean Tour in 2009 af­ter an open­ing 64 at the Dubai Desert Clas­sic and for the first time in the States at Quail Hol­low in 2010 on the back of a clos­ing 62. He has been the world No.1 for 95 weeks, miles adrift of Tiger Woods (683) and Greg Nor­man (331) but very close to catch­ing Nick Faldo (97) and thereby mov­ing up to third on the all-time list. Maybe he’ll have got there by the time the tour car­a­van reaches Au­gusta in April.

Ah, yes – the Masters. As McIl­roy has been say­ing since he won his third dif­fer­ent ma­jor cham­pi­onship, “The Masters is the one…” This com­ing April, as surely as con­tro­versy fol­lows Pres­i­dent Trump, it will hap­pen again. McIl­roy said ahead of the tour­na­ment last April: “I think I am a good enough player and have ev­ery­thing I need to be­come a Masters cham­pion. But I also know each and ev­ery year that passes, the ex­pec­ta­tion will rise and it will be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.” No one said he wasn’t per­cep­tive.

In 2011, McIl­roy led the Masters by four go­ing into the fi­nal round but his lead had gone be­fore he’d played the 2nd hole. McIl­roy started with a bo­gey; Charl Schwartzel started birdie-par-ea­gle. Schwartzel would go on to win while Rory would stum­ble home with an 80 – an un­think­able 10 shots adrift. In 1956, Ken Ven­turi had led the Masters by four shots only to lose it with an 80 on Sun­day, so the sce­nario wasn’t un­prece­dented. Although it took Ven­turi a fur­ther eight years to win a ma­jor, the 1964 US Open, it took McIl­roy a lit­tle over eight weeks. By co­in­ci­dence, at the same venue.

In the US Open at Con­gres­sional, McIl­roy had an eight-shot lead on Sun­day morn­ing. By Sun­day even­ing that was his mar­gin of vic­tory. “If you had asked me when I turned pro did I think I’d have won a ma­jor by 22, I would have said no,” said an ex­ul­tant cham­pion.

McIl­roy’s 16-un­der par was a US Open record. When he won the US PGA at Ki­awah Is­land the fol­low­ing year – again by eight shots – another scor­ing record fell. Noth­ing to this ma­jors lark, right?

The next two were much closer af­fairs. In the 2014 Open at Royal Liver­pool he got home by two and thanked the crowd for their tremen­dous sup­port “even though I’m a Man United fan stand­ing here”, which drew the good-na­tured boos he’d ex­pected. In the US PGA at Val­halla the fol­low­ing month he won by a shot af­ter a dra­matic fi­nale. It was so dark that McIl­roy in­sisted he and play­ing part­ner Bernd Wies­berger first hit their drives on the par-5 18th and then their sec­ond shots while, ahead, Phil Mick­el­son and Rickie Fowler were play­ing the same hole. “We were cool with them hit­ting the tee shots,” said Fowler. “We weren’t ex­pect­ing the ap­proach shots.”

Aged 24, McIl­roy had won four ma­jors. Only Nick­laus and Woods had pre­vi­ously man­aged that. But soon he would have to back off. He with­drew from the 2015 Open af­ter sus­tain­ing an an­kle in­jury while play­ing foot­ball. “It can hap­pen walk­ing off a tee box,” McIl­roy said, de­fend­ing his ac­tions and de­ter­mined to pretty much carry on re­gard­less.

So the foot­ball with friends would con­tinue,

just not in mid-sum­mer. “I re­ally can’t be do­ing silly things like play­ing foot­ball in the mid­dle of the sea­son and jeop­ar­dis­ing even six months of my ca­reer. That’s a big chunk where I could make some hay and win a ma­jor or two.” In the De­cem­ber he had laser surgery on his eyes, ad­mit­ting that he’d de­layed the treat­ment un­til then so it would not in­ter­fere with the sea­son. He’d ev­i­dently learnt his footy les­son al­ready!

No one said he couldn’t get feisty…

Head­ing into the sea­son-end­ing DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship in Novem­ber 2015, McIl­roy held the ad­van­tage over Danny Wil­lett in the Race to Dubai, but not with­out con­tro­versy. Keith Pel­ley, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Euro­pean Tour, had granted the Ir­ish­man spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion so that he did not have to ful­fil the Tour’s cri­te­rion of play­ing in at least 13 events in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble to win it, this on ac­count of the fact that Rory’s foot­ball in­jury had caused him to cur­tail his sched­ule. Wil­lett was both riled about this – “there’s a lot of guys who play through in­juries week in, week out; it’s the story of the game… if it had been any­one else they might not have been given the same treat­ment” – and re­laxed about it – “Keith couldn’t have not given a dis­pen­sa­tion to him re­ally… it’s Rory and he’s go­ing to be the life force of this Tour for the next 15 years,

“I think I am a good enough player and have ev­ery­thing I need to be­come Masters cham­pion”

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