Masters meltdown as Rory fights off the tears
In the end, it almost became too hard to watch. Irish golfing star Rory McIlroy's dream of winning the sport's most prestigious tournament was cruelly shattered last night after his meltdown in the US Masters.
Despite going into the final round four shots clear, the 21-year-old from Holywood, Co Down, quickly relinquished lead as he was overtaken by eventual winner Charles Schwartzel.
Echoing the feelings of of his friends and family members at his local golf club, BBC's golf correspondent Iain Carter said: "This is very, very hard to watch. This is a meltdown that none of us could have foreseen."
At some points, McIlroy looked to be close to fighting back tears as an errant ball took valuable shots as it nestled in a creek.
But at the age of just 21, McIlroy's early heroics at the Masters looks set to catapult him into golf's multimillion-earning elite.
He may have dramatically plummeted down the leaderboard on the last day but the affable young star's coming of age on the sport's biggest stage will push him to the top of golf's pay league.
Ironically, he had to forgo one of his first cash prizes when, as a 17-year-old at the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic, he couldn't claim the €7,600 pot because he was an amateur.
But just four short years later he is worth an estimated €8m after a number of high-profile wins.
And experts last night predicted he would soon be signing seven-figure endorsement deals.
"He's probably making €2m plus in sponsors and endorsements," Pembroke Communications managing director Michael O'Keeffe said.
"When you add to the sponsorships and endorsements to bonuses he'll have from his sponsors, plus the revenue he's going to generate, this will be at least five million.
"He's become a global superstar. He is hugely marketable and hugely sought after."
His early dominance in the Masters means he will be headhunted by sports firms -- and other companies which will be attracted to his clean-cut image -- to front their brand.
Last year Tiger Woods pocketed $11.9m (€8.2m) in purse money -- but his endorsement bankroll earned him another $75m (€52m).
McIlroy's earning power has soared despite quickly losing the four-shot lead which he carried into the final day of the Masters.
Friends and family could only look on in disappointment in his home town of Holywood, Co Down as his dream quickly turned to bitter disappointment.
All watching knew the sacrifices his parents made to help bring him to the world stage.
Gerry and Rosie McIlroy worked hard to pay for his golfing education, with Gerry holding down three jobs at one stage.