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European Masters star turn McIlroy declines Seve Trophy invitation

Three years ago, Rory McIlroy travelled high into the Swiss Alps, a fresh-face young lad setting out on a professional career.

McIlroy suffered the enormous disappointment of losing the Omega European Masters in a play-off to Frenchman Jean Francios Lucquin, but the manner in which he conducted himself, saw him depart the Alpine course a man.

Fast-forward three years and it was as if a movie star had stepped onto the first tee of the Crans-sur-Sierre course such was the interest in the current US Open champion as he took his place in the Pro-Am.

McIlroy has certainly come a long way since 2008 as he teed-up in the company of Omega president Stephen Urqhardt, tournament director Yves Mittaz and Italian Antonio Bulgheroni, owner of Lindt chocolates, president of one of Italy's largest banks and also president of Varese GC.

However, the 22-year-old McIlroy, who had parents Gerry and Rosie looking on, was taking it all in his stride. "A few things change when you win a Major as your profile goes up a couple of levels," he said.

"People are interested and want to know how you live your life. But it's fine. I'm happy to be in the position that I'm in and the good news is that I can focus on golf and try to win a few tournaments from now to the end of the year."

Like McIlroy, Darren Clarke has had two weeks off since he missed the halfway cut in last month's PGA Championship in Atlanta, with the first five days of his break spent fishing in Donegal.

The European Masters marks the start of the 2012 Ryder Cup qualifying process, while it is also the final qualifying event for the Vivendi Seve Trophy later this month in Versailles.

McIlroy has, in fact, declined the invitation to play on Paul McGinley's GB&I team. He revealed yesterday that he has commitments with his sponsors and also wants some time at home before embarking on 12 weeks of travel.

Clarke is lying first on one of two qualifying points tables and with automatic selection finishing this Sunday in Switzerland, he is sure of his place in the side if he chooses to play.

However, the Open champion is hosting a two-day corporate outing at the Archerfield course to the east of Edinburgh on the Monday and Tuesday after the Vivendi Seve Trophy concludes on September 18.

"When I set out my schedule I didn't know I was going to win the Open. But things have now changed and I am in the Vivendi team," he said. "I haven't spoken to Paul, but, because it is all about honouring Seve this year, I am doing my utmost to play."

Meanwhile, Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin returns to competition in the Swiss Alps after being on honeymoon for the past month.

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Irish Independent