Child prodigy displayed driving ambition aged just two
ALTHOUGH still only 22 years old, Rory McIlroy is an established face on the world golf circuit, having joined the professional ranks in 2007.
Like another prodigy, Tiger Woods, McIlroy's talent for the sport became apparent from a very early age. When he was just two years old he hit a 40-yard drive and his first hole-in-one came at the age of nine.
But that's where the comparisons between the Northern Irish man and the clinical, distant Woods end.
By all accounts, McIlroy is an affable and well-rounded young man who has more sides to his personality besides golf.
During his meteoric rise, he became the youngest winner of the West of Ireland and Irish Close Championships in 2005 before turning professional two years later. By 2008 he had entered the top 200 in the world rankings.
He is a huge fan of Manchester United and vocal supporter of the Ulster rugby team.
And like many men in their early 20s, he is mad about cars, the only difference being that, with his wealth, McIlroy can allow himself to indulge his passion.
In his garage he keeps a Ferrari F430 which he has described as "absolute class" and an Audi RS5 estate, though he recently rubbished reports that he had purchased the world's most expensive car -- a €1.2m Bugatti Veyron.
When it comes to romance, McIlroy is also reassuringly down to earth. He started going out with girlfriend Holly Sweeney when he was 16 and she just 14. And though they split for a period last year, reportedly to allow McIlroy concentrate on golf, they remained extremely close and recently resumed their relationship.
McIlroy owes much of his grounding to his parents Gerry and Rosie who, while being extremely supportive of their son, never strayed into the territory of the overweening golf parent.
But the family did have to make sacrifices to help Rory fulfil his ability: at one stage Gerry McIlroy held down three jobs to pay for his son's golf education, while Rosie worked nights in a factory.
McIlroy is one of the most prolific "tweeters" in Irish sport. On his Twitter feed he describes himself as someone who "hits a little white ball around a field sometimes".
This self-deprecating tone continues throughout his online posts as he gives fans a refreshingly honest insight into the life of a pro golfer.
But apart from checking in with Twitter to give his location as Bethesda, Maryland, where the US Open was played, he has been unusually quiet over the past week.
It's safe to assume, however, that the Holywood golfer will have plenty to say today after a weekend when the Irish sporting public followed every move as he hit "a little white ball" around the fairways and greens of the Congressional Country Club.