Rory McIlroy has revealed his greatest triumph this season - and it’s not winning the US Open by eight shots.
The game’s biggest draw admits that he made a triple bogey when he broke off his long term relationship with childhood sweetheart Holly Sweeney, 20, at the start of the season.
He admits now that it turned out to be a major boob but his game has been sensational since he begged her to take him back.
McIlroy revealed: “I have known Holly for six years, and for a 22 year old that is a big part of my life. At the start of the year I wanted to focus on my game, and just take a break or whatever.
“But I realised pretty quickly that I had made a mistake, and I had to do a lot of begging and grovelling to get her back.
“She is fantastic. She definitely keeps my feet on the ground, and she knows me better basically than anyone else. I have spent so much time with her and she knows the things to say to me.
“She has been such a great support, and it was great to get back home and see her and spend time with her. She takes my mind off golf and everything else that is going on.”
The pair have been going steady since they were teenagers and Ulster rugby cheerleader Holly soon hopes to finish her university degree.
She’s been a rock for McIlroy since his amateur days and was there for him at Rosses Point in 2007 when he shed some tears after failing to complete a dream of a hat-trick of West of Ireland wins.
She was also a shoulder to cry on at Augusta National in April, when McIlroy’s management team flew her out for the final day of the Masters.
McIlroy blew his chance of becoming the first Irish winner of a green jacket when he crashed to a final round 80 to lose a four-shot overnight lead.
But seeing Holly there to hug him near the 18th green eased the pain of that crushing blow and made that Sunday night easier to take.
Rory revealed: “She takes my mind off golf and everything else that is going on. It was nice to see her at Augusta when my management company flew her over.
“I gave her a hug and said something like I was sorry she wasted her time coming over. But having her there made Sunday night a lot easier, having someone there you really know.”
The couple live together with their two dogs at McIlroy’s €2.2 million, 13-acre hideaway outside Belfast.
And while the world No 4 admits that their lives have been turned upside down by his US Open success, her no-nonsense attitude stops him getting a big-head.
After he returned from Congressional with the US Open trophy, she brought him straight down to earth by ordering him to wash his clothes.
Rory joked: “She said, ‘We’ll empty your suitcase at the washing machine.’”
He added: “In a way it’s tough on her. I am getting all this attention. We have been together since we were 15 years old and we’ve had a couple of five or six week breaks, which you are going to have.
“But she knows me better than probably anyone else in the world. She keeps me very grounded. She doesn’t take any grief from me. She’s great. We are trying to stay as normal as possible.
“I don’t know what the next few years are going to bring. We are a very normal couple. She still goes to university, she is trying to finish her degree. I’m out playing golf and trying to win major championships.”
The pair have no plans to get married just yet but McIlroy knows that he’s not the one who’s calling the shots.
He said: “Holly needs to finish school first and get a degree. She’s a lot smarter than I am. She is the brains of the couple.”
He admits that while he has become a cockier and more confident player on the golf course, he has to check his ego at the front door when he gets home.
He said: “I feel as if I need that on the golf course. I need that cockiness and self-belief, arrogance, swagger. Whatever you want to call it. I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.
“But once I leave the golf course, that all gets left there. I just try to turn unto the normal Rory McIlroy that was brought up in Holywood, Northern Ireland.”
Asked how Holly would react if he played the prima donna at home, he grinned: “Probably a slap with the back of the right hand.”
Affectionately Nicknamed ‘Holly Hot Lips’ by Rory’s Dad Gerry, Holly insists that he hasn’t let success and his massive fortune go to his head.
She said: “I was up at the golf course caddying with a couple of the girls and he was practising, and he came over and said hello. And that’s how it all started. I didn’t even know who he was at that stage.
“He is still the same guy. Not one thing about him has changed. Being a champion doesn’t come into it – you have to keep him grounded, and say and do the same things you always do, like going to the cinema, or going to Tesco’s.
“I was so proud when I saw him come off the 18th green at Augusta and handle himself so well, talking to the press straight away.”
Holly was a star attraction amongst the others WAGS at the Ryder Cup and has become a media star in her own right, attracting more than 3,500 followers on Twitter.
After watching Rory win the US Open she tweeted: “My fabulous boyfriend has played flawlessly all week! Drink up Northern Ireland he’s done us proud! Here’s to the sick days tomorrow WOOOOO.”
If Rory wins the Open next week, Northern Ireland will close down.