Rory McIlroy: I wanted to quit the game as a teenager
Rory McIlroy has revealed how close Europe came to losing its young British Open-winning superstar.
The Northern Irishman almost quit the game at the age of 17, just a year before he turned professional.
The WGC Bridgestone Invitational will be McIlroy's first appearance since his glory at Hoylake 11 days ago and, if his spirit is any gauge whatsoever, the rest will be playing for second here and, indeed, at next week's USPGA Championship at Valhalla.
But he was not always so enamoured with the sport. You can imagine Gerry McIlroy's surprise when his teenaged son, clutching yet another famous Irish trophy, told him: "I'm ready to give up."
It was 2006, McIlroy had established himself as one of the world's best amateurs, having shot a 61 at Royal Portrush and secured himself a berth in the following year's Open by winning the European Amateur.
The biggest agents were already beating down his door with their rich promises. "I had just won the Mullingar Scratch Cup and remember the three-hour drive home with my dad," McIlroy said.
"I said to him, 'I don't like this anymore, I don't enjoy it. I've just won, and I don't know, I'm not happy, I'm not excited'. I didn't play for three days."
It was only eight years ago and, inevitably, McIlroy is still prone to thinking back on that moment of uncertainty.
"I look back on it, and my parents were actually so good, saying, 'look, Rory, we just want you to be happy and do whatever you want to do'," he said. "Inside they were probably saying, 'what's he doing, what's he thinking?'
"I was just being a grumpy teenager with hormonal issues. Apart from that instant, I've always loved the game."
It is fair to say his affection has never been as strong as it is now.
As he explained last week, McIlroy enjoyed the celebrations after his third Major and had his fun with the Claret Jug, including taking pictures of it in various places in his house, including on the toilet.
But it is time to move on and Firestone could be the perfect place for McIlroy to start off where he finished in the Wirral. He likes the layout – "this is one of may favourite events of the year" – and has so much to play for, regardless of warming up for Valhalla.
"World No 1 is a big goal of mine and I've never won a World Golf Championship event so that's another thing I'd like to knock off the list," McIlroy said. "And it does seem that this course is going to set up well for me this week."
Of course, a return to No 1, after a 15-month hiatus would attract the most headlines. McIlroy needs to win and for Adam Scott to come outside the top five. (© Daily Telegraph, London)