By Brian Keogh
Rory McIlroy is on top of the world again after his sudden death win in the Grey Goose Cup in Spain.
The Holywood starlet, 17, joined Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia on the list of winners of the former Sherry Cup after a dramatic duel with Norway's Marius Thorp at Sotogrande.
McIlroy now looks certain to regain his place at the top of the World Amateur Rankings before making his 10th appearance in a pro event in this week's Portuguese Open on the European Tour.
McIlroy beamed: "It's great to get my name on the same trophy as Padraig and Sergio - and it was really pleasing the way I did it.
"I was one behind playing the last and I holed a 12 footer for birdie for a 72 to get into the play-off and then birdied the first play-off hole from three feet.
"The win should put me back at the top of the world rankings again, which is nice and I have the Portuguese Open this week to look forward to.
"I can't wait. And I am also playing the Spanish Open at the end of April on a sponsor's invite, so that's another one on the schedule.
"If I play well this week and win the West and then play well in the Spanish Open, the Irish Open could be a possibility if all things go well.
"But it is just a thought because I feel I have to play the Brabazon Trophy that week instead to make sure of my Walker Cup place.
"I would love to play the Irish Open at Adare Manor. But I will have plenty of time to do that in my career I hope."
McIlroy finished 52nd behind Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.
But he feels that his game is good enough to allow him to contend for top honours in Portugal and a victory that could see him turn professional earlier than expected.
He beamed: "If I won the Portuguese Open this week I would definitely turn professional. But realistically it would be great to get myself up there in contention again.
"I think my game is better than it was earlier this year. I am hitting more greens and giving myself more opportunities. I am just a lot more consistent.
"It was quite windy at Sotogrande this week but Marius and I were five shots ahead of the field at the end. We were the two that were playing the best.
"You couldn't really make mistakes because if you make mistakes round there you are going to make bogey or worse.
"I was really happy in that respect because I had been struggling a bit with my driving at the start of the week.
"But I worked on that with Neil Manchip and drove it really well. I probably drove it as well as I ever have for the four days."
South Africa's Dale Hayes holds the record as the youngest winner on the European Tour at 18 years and 290 days.
The best performances by an amateur on the European Tour are runner up finishes for Russell Claydon and Jan Erik Dahlstrom in the defunct European Under 25 championship.