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Just two years after first title, star has game down to a tee

HE'S just 22 years of age and has a curly mop of hair more usually found on a university campus.

But a mere four years after turning professional, Rory McIlroy has the world of golf at his feet.

Even as he set out for his epic final round at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland, McIlroy had amassed earnings of more than €2.65m and had already smashed a number of records.

He had posted the championship's lowest score after a third round and was the tournament's first player to reach 13-under par.

Not bad for a man who only won his first professional title in 2009 and who is set to earn even more from lucrative endorsements and sponsorship deals.

In 2010 the Northern Irishman earned €1.78m, a sum he can expect to easily exceed if his current form continues in 2011.

Last year, for example, Tiger Woods took in €8.2m in purse money but earned €52m in endorsements.

McIlroy doesn't yet attract these massive sums but his bounce back from his US Masters disaster in April will have helped his career enormously.


Back then McIlroy let a four shot lead slip from his grasp in the final round and with it the chance to record his first victory in a Major.

But according to sports psychologist Dr Betty Cody, McIlroy has clearly moved on.

"It was a bit devastating for him at the time but nobody ever becomes a winner without knowing how it feels to be in a winning position. You really have finally to make that break-through and it can go against you before you finally make that breakthrough."

Veteran golfer Christy O'Connor Jnr also believes McIlroy has learned valuable lessons from his experience at Augusta.

"It was a massive disappointment losing a tournament the way he did but he bounced back the next week. His game is in such better shape now, he is playing very positively," O'Connor told the Irish Independent.

The advice and support of fellow Irish golfers, Graham McDowell and Padraig Harrington, would have been invaluable for McIlroy, according to O'Connor.

"I am quite sure he has had dinner with them in the evenings and both guys, having won majors, will have been a huge advantage to him."

Among the efforts McIlroy made following his US Masters disaster was to speak to the legendary Jack Nicklaus, a conversation the 22 year old described as probably the best 90 minutes he had spent in a long time, although he revealed that the first thing the 18-time major winner said to him was "I'm gonna kick your rear end!".

"One of the biggest things I took from it was patience," he added. "Just learn to wait and learn to bide your time and know that if you believe in yourself it will happen."

Nicklaus's advice was no doubt at the front of McIlroy's mind as he stormed his way through the US Open in record-breaking fashion this weekend.

Irish Independent