Rory McIlroy has come a long, long way since he won his first major championship at the US Open in 2011. His victory in 2015 at the US Open at the age of 26 has made him the second youngest player after Tiger Woods to complete the Career Grand Slam. The boy, it seems can do no wrong.
When Martin Kaymar helped Rory McIlroy into his Masters green jacket, the superstar from Holywood in County Down became a five-time major winner and just the sixth player after Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to complete the career Grand Slam.
But just where did this exceptional talented learn the skills to take on the world’s best and beat them? We explore the courses that have made McIlroy one of golf's living legends.
Where Rory McIlroy learned to play…
McIlroy was a winner from an early age. He was raised on challenging links and parkland courses along the
Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland and won several prestigious titles as a teenager. No doubt these stood to him when he held off Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic in 2011 to become the World Number One for the first time.
Rory McIlroy analysing a shot
Sand and sea at Royal Portrush
Putting time at Royal Portrush
Royal County Down Golf Course
Long hours of practice at his home club of
Holywood in County Down gave the rising star the confidence he needed to produce the goods: proven in full when he captured the 2005 Irish Amateur Close title at Westport. The victory, at age 16, made him the youngest ever winner of the title, which had been captured in the past by stars such as Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell.
It was also in 2005 that McIlroy set a new competitive course record with a score of 61 on the
Dunluce links of Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim. The course dates back to 1888 and is the only club on the island of Ireland to have hosted The British Open Championship – and looks set to once more, possibly as early as 2019.
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After McIlroy became Irish Close champion for the second time at the
European Club in 2006, he prepared for his title defense by humbling a giant, his mentor Nick Faldo, on the windswept Old Links at Ballyliffin, which is perched on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland’s most northerly county.
In 2007, McIlroy earned a coveted spot on the Great Britain and Ireland team at the Walker Cup, held at the
Royal County Down Golf Club where he'll compete once more this May at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, Hosted By The Rory Foundation. Although his team didn’t take home the cup, he turned professional straight afterwards and became one of the fastest players to win his European Tour card.
Ballyliffin Links The wilds of Donegal
Ballyliffin is a great golf course,” says McIlroy, who shot a course record 67 to beat six-time major winner Faldo by a stroke in a 2006 exhibition match.
“They have two great golf courses there,” Rory says.
The Old Links, which is a little shorter and a little tighter with small greens. Nick Faldo redesigned it and it is very tricky and a very good test. The Glashedy, meanwhile, is a big golf course measuring more than 7,400 yards.
McIlroy continues,“They have two brilliant golf courses on a spectacular piece of land so if you have a chance to go to the northwest of Ireland, Ballyliffin should definitely be on everyone’s list.”
Probably the best links course in the world
Just a few days after beating Faldo in Ballyliffin, McIlroy retained the Irish Close title at
The European Club and declared that it was the best links course he had ever played.
That’s high praise from a player who grew up just a few minutes’ drive from the great links of
Royal County Down and regularly teed it up at Royal Portrush when he was just a young boy.
“I love courses where you really have to think your way around. It gets me focused much more. That’s pretty much why I’m so impressed with it.”
The European Club, County Wicklow In the eye of the Tiger
Back to the 2006 Irish Amateur Close Championship at The European Club, McIlroy went to the turn in three under and was on his way to beating the course record of four under par 67, set by Tiger Woods in July 2002. He had to settle for a 70 in the end, and ended up taking 80 in the second round as the wind blew and the rough took its toll.
He still qualified for the matchplay stages with ease, though, and eventually cruised to the title having learned some valuable lessons about course management and wind play. This, you could say, has stood to him later in his professional career.
Born in Northern Ireland, McIlroy is a golfer defined by the courses of his youth. Courses that create winners in the #homeofchampions.
By Brian Keogh
Meet Graeme McDowell – another star of the golf circuit who’s a home boy at heart.
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