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A roaring year for golfing great McIlroy

Last updated on: December 29, 2014 16:53 IST
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- 'I feel I came through this year stronger and wiser'

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the Wanamaker trophy after his one-stroke victory during the final round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 10

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses with the Wanamaker trophy after his one-stroke victory during the final round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on August 10. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Only a special performer can live up to a seismic pre-season prediction and, when he is old and grey and sitting in his rocking chair, Rory McIlroy will look back at 2014 as the year he became a true golfing great.

The tousle-haired Northern Irishman also ruled the roost two years ago, winning five times around the world, but a change of equipment and off-course distractions in 2013 caused a slump in form that saw him slide to sixth in the rankings.

Twelve months ago serious questions were being asked about McIlroy's future but he responded like a champion, outplaying Adam Scott to end a year-long title drought at the Australian Open in December.

He then boasted about his plans for the season in an interview with the BBC in January.

"I won a major in 2011 and 2012 but not in 2013 so I'll try to make up for that with two this year," said McIlroy.

Rory McIlroy talks to Caroline Wozniacki

Rory McIlroy talks to Caroline Wozniacki. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

He was as good as his word, registering back-to-back major victories in the British Open and US PGA Championship.

McIlroy also won the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August, and played an integral role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory in September.

His resurgence came about despite more dramas away from the course.

McIlroy announced his split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki at Wentworth and is still involved in a legal dispute with his former agents that will continue in 2015.

"I learned a lot from it," the world number one said last month.

"I feel I came through this year stronger and wiser."

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland kisses the Claret Jug after his two-stroke victory at The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool after his British Open victory in July. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

It was his remarkable victory at Wentworth that provided the launch pad for his stellar season.

The iconic West Course on the outskirts of London has never been McIlroy's favourite piece of real estate but he shrugged off his indifference to the layout, and his much-publicised split with Wozniacki, to score a fairytale victory.

"I can't explain it," said McIlroy after pocketing the first prize of $1 million. "It's been a week of very mixed emotions but I'm sitting here looking at this trophy going, 'How the hell did it happen?'."

The 25-year-old then repelled a last-round charge from Sergio Garcia to capture the first British Open title of his career at Hoylake in July.

McIlroy carried a six-shot lead into the final day and had to keep the jitters in check to win golf's oldest major by two strokes.

He made it two wins in as many tournament appearances, snatching the world number one ranking away from Scott in the process, by easing to another two-shot triumph in Ohio.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a bunker shot

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a bunker shot. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

McIlroy followed up by sealing a rare hat-trick of victories at the US PGA Championship in Kentucky.

"I didn't think in my wildest dreams I'd have a summer like this," was his reaction after collecting the fourth major crown of his career.

Not surprisingly McIlroy succumbed to fatigue after a hectic 10-week run and narrowly failed to win the U.S. PGA Tour's money-spinning FedExCup series in September.

However, he lit up the final day of the Ryder Cup in Scotland, spearheading Europe's victory charge with a 5 & 4 demolition of Rickie Fowler in the singles that included four birdies and an eagle in a barnstorming six-hole start.

McIlroy then capped his best-ever season by finishing top of the European money-list in November.

Chief executive George O'Grady described McIlroy as a "credit to himself and to the European Tour".

"It says something about his outstanding form that Rory ends the year as the dominant player not only on our tour but on the world stage," said O'Grady.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses for photo in the Omega Exhibition

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland poses for photo in the Omega Exhibition. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Factbox: World number one Rory McIlroy      

EARLY LIFE

Born: May 4, 1989 in Hollywood, County Down, Northern Ireland

Strikes a 40-yard drive at the age of two and becomes youngest member of Hollywood golf club aged seven.

TEENAGER

2004 - Member of Europe's Junior Ryder Cup-winning team

2005 - Becomes youngest winner of West of Ireland Championship, shooting record score of 61 around Royal Portrush Golf Club. First European Tour appearance at British Masters.

2007 - Makes first cut on European Tour at Dubai Desert Classic. Awarded silver medal as leading amateur in British Open at Carnoustie. Turns professional.

2009

- Wins first professional tournament at Dubai Desert Classic.

- Plays first major championship at U.S. Masters, finishing 20th on two under par.

- Ties for 10th at U.S. Open

- Ties for third at U.S. PGA Championship.

2010

- Wins first US PGA Tour event after shooting 62 in the final round of the Quail Hollow Championship.

- Shoots 63 in first round of British Open at St Andrews, Scotland before finishing tied third to climb to seventh in the world rankings.

- Finishes tied third in US PGA Championship.

- Makes Ryder Cup debut and wins half point in singles match against Stewart Cink to help Europe regain the trophy.

2011

- Shoots 65 in first round of U.S. Masters but closing 80 leaves him in tie for 15th place.

- Wins US Open at Congressional, Bethsheba, Maryland by eight shots with record score of 16 under par, becoming the youngest winner of the tournament since Bobby Jones in 1923.

2012

- Wins US PGA Championship by a record eight strokes after a final-round 66.

- Wins US Tour's FedEx Cup

- Helps Europe complete astonishing last-day comeback to win Ryder Cup in "The Miracle at Medinah"

- Tops the European tour order of merit.

2013

- Switches to Nike clubs and struggles all year before winning the Australian Open.

2014

- Splits with his fiancee, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, after a three-year relationship.

- Wins BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the European Tour's flagship event.

- Wins British Open at Royal Liverpool by two shots, leading throughout the tournament to claim third career major title.

- Joins Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only three players since 1934 to win three majors by the age of 25.

- Wins first World Golf Championship event at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and returns to world number one.

- Wins US PGA Championship at Valhalla, his fourth career major.

- Helps Europe retain the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland.

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