World No.1 Rory McIlroy celebrates his 31st birthday today. So, to mark the occasion, we’ve assembled five of the Northern Irishman’s best moments. Enjoy.
FIRST PROFESSIONAL WIN (2009)
Five-hundred days after turning professional, McIlroy defeated Englishman Justin Rose by one shot to win his maiden professional title – the Dubai Desert Classic – at Emirates Golf Club in the UAE.
Hot on his heels were the likes of Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Louis Oosthuizen.
“To hold off a field like this, as well … Makes my win all the more satisfying,” said the curly-headed 19-year-old, who reached 19 under for the tournament.
FIRST MAJOR TITLE (2011)
Following the disappointment of his final-round collapse at Augusta National two months earlier, McIlroy cruised to an eight-shot victory over Jason Day at the US Open, hoisting his first major title in the process.
The 22-year-old McIlroy set 11 tournament records in his victory march at Congressional Country Club, including the lowest total 72-hole score (268) and the lowest total under-par score (16 under).
“I knew how good Tiger was in 2000 and I was trying to go out there and emulate him in some way. Right now, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” McIlroy said in reference to Woods’ 11-year-old aggregate record score of 12 under.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (2014)
After experiencing an incredibly lean 2013 season (his only victory came at the Australian Open in December) McIlroy enjoyed one of the best summers of his career, winning the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship in an impressive four-week span.
McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool after leading wire-to-wire, defeating Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia by two strokes.
“It feels incredible,” McIlroy said. "It wasn't easy – there were a few guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused. To win three legs of the Grand Slam at 25 is a pretty big achievement.”
THE RYDER CUP (2016)
McIlroy’s fourth Ryder Cup appearance came in 2016 at Hazeltine National in front of hostile American crowds.
The 27-year-old McIlroy arrived in Minnesota just five days after winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup at East Lake – and he quickly put two points on the board for Europe alongside Belgian Thomas Pieters.
McIlroy was then paired with Englishman Andy Sullivan for the Friday foursomes – losing on the 18th hole to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler – before successfully reuniting with Pieters to defeat Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson in Saturday’s fourballs.
McIlroy then faced Patrick Reed in an epic, emotionally-charged Sunday singles match, which Reed won when he birdied the final hole.
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP (2019)
Last year, McIlroy became just the second British player – following Sandy Lyle, 1987 – to win the Players Championship, reaching 16 under and defeating Jim Furyk by one shot on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
McIlroy claimed his 15th PGA Tour victory in the process, joining Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win four majors and 15 PGA Tour titles before the age of 30.
“It's a tournament that I've never won before on a golf course that I've had mixed results on, so I feel like I'm going to take even more from that, and I had to grind it out down the stretch, as well, which I'll take a lot from,” said McIlroy, who would go on to win the PGA Tour Player of the Year for the third time in his career (2012, 2014 and 2019).