Rory McIlroy turned professional 10 years ago this week. Here are the moments that have defined the four-time Major winner’s career.
1. 2005 British Masters
Just days after his 16th birthday, McIlroy makes his first appearance on the European Tour. It’s an inauspicious debut, as Rory struggles in tough conditions to miss the cut at 19-over. Of course, it’s hard to be critical, given he was mixing it up with pros at 16 years old.
2. 2007 British Open
McIlroy shoots an opening-round 68 at Carnoustie to sit in third place. Though he falls from contention over the next three days, his five-over finish is good enough to earn low-amateur honours.
3. 2009 Dubai Desert Classic
Turning professional in 2007, McIlroy enjoys a successful 2008 campaign but fails to reach the winner’s circle. That changes in early 2009, as a dominating performance in Dubai earns Rory his first professional victory.
4. 2009 US PGA Championship
Though he’s a top-20 player in the world and has a handful of impressive performances on the US PGA Tour, McIlroy remains a relative unknown entity to American audiences. That changes at Hazeltine National, as a steady Sunday finish in turbulent conditions vaults McIlroy to a third-place finish behind Y.E. Yang and Tiger Woods.
5. 2010 Quail Hollow Championship
Rory grabs his first US title with a superb Sunday 62, a score that gives McIlroy a four-shot victory. Quail Hollow will prove fertile ground for McIlroy, as he’ll win again there 2015 and have three other top-10 finishes in his career.
6. 2011 Masters
What was supposed to be a coronation turns into a calamity. Entering Sunday with a four-shot lead, the Northern Irishman turns the front in 37, only to triple-bogey the 10th and make a four-putt double on the 12th. McIlroy finishes with an 80, a number that sinks McIlroy to 15th for the tournament.
7. 2011 US Open
McIlroy puts any worries about residual effects from Augusta to bed, lapping the field by eight strokes for his first Major championship win. Rory set 11 US Open marks in his victory march, including the lowest total 72-hole score (268) and the lowest total under-par score (16-under).
8. 2011 British Open
After scores of 74 and 73 on the weekend, McIlroy tells the media he’s “not a fan of golf tournaments that are predicted so much by the weather”. Given McIlroy’s upbringing in such conditions in Northern Ireland, it causes a minor stir.
9. 2012 US PGA Championship
McIlroy makes a mockery of Kiawah Island, submitting a 13-under score to win the Wanamaker Trophy by eight shots. It breaks Jack Nicklaus’ 1980 mark as the largest winning margin in tournament history.
10. 2012 Ryder Cup
McIlroy almost misses his tee-time for Sunday’s matches at Medinah after confusion on the timezone. With the Europeans down four points heading into the final day of play, the move ostensibly shows a lack of maturity and preparation from McIlroy…
11. 2012 Ryder Cup
…except that, with little preparation before walking to the first tee, McIlroy dusts off Keegan Bradley, 2&1, a match that spurs one of the greatest comebacks in Ryder Cup history.
12. 2013 Honda Classic
McIlroy receives heavy criticism for withdrawing with “tooth pain”. Observers around the game believe more was at play, including possible issues with his recent equipment switch to Nike.
13. Northern summer of 2014
McIlroy wins three times in a four-week span, adding the claret jug to his every-growing trophy case. Along with triumphs at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship, writers note “the era of McIlroy” has begun.
14. 2015 injury
A week before the British Open at St Andrews, McIlroy injures his ankle playing backyard ‘kickabout’ with friends. He misses the tournament, and loses the No.1 spot in the world. He hasn’t regained it since.
15. 2015 Race To Dubai
Despite missing the British Open, wins in Dubai and the WGC-Match Play give McIlroy a shot at the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, with Rory securing his third Order of Merit title with a win at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
16. 2016 Masters
Playing in the final group on Saturday, McIlroy is primed for a run at the Grand Slam. Unfortunately, McIlroy stumbles off the leaderboard with a 77.
17. 2016 FedEx Cup
After missed cuts at the US Open and PGA Championship, McIlroy saves his lost season with wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship, the latter which comes in a playoff. After taking a backseat to the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, McIlroy reinserts his name as one of the sport’s top performers.
18. 2016 Ryder Cup
Usually one noted for stoicism, McIlroy unleashes several emotional outbursts at Hazeltine National against an antagonistic American crowd, on his way to winning three of his first four matches. He engages with Patrick Reed in a fiery front-nine battle on Sunday, with Reed ultimately winning the match, 1 up.