Hot McIlroy buys dream home

By Brian Keogh

Rip roaring Rory McIlroy just can't believe how easily he's made the transition from top amateur to the hottest golf property on the planet.

But the only property McIlroy is worrying about these days is the luxury pad he's just bought near his home in Holywood, Co Down.

The teen ace, 18, has splashed out on a five bedroomed bachelor pad overlooking Belfast Lough.

And if he wins this week's €3 million Portugal Masters and becomes the youngest winner in European Tour history, he'll have plenty of change left over for the furniture.

Delighted with his fourth place finish in the Madrid Open, McIlroy revealed: "I bought a house last Monday, when I got back from the Dunhill Links.

"I had been looking at it for a while and well and it came along at the right time. I got a bit of money.

"It's a five bedroom, detached place between Holywood and Bangor, quite near the sea front.

"It's very nice. And very big! I will be in it by Halloween and hopefully have it all done up by Christmas.

"My mum and dad will be happy to have the extra space at home. But I don't plan on learning to cook. Hopefully, my girlfriend Holly will pop round and give me a hand with that."

McIlroy can almost afford his own chef after signing big deals with a host of sponsors and grabbing his tour card in his just second pro start at St Andrews.

Finishing fourth in the Madrid Open on Sunday boosted his earnings on tour to over €260,000 from just three events - a whopping €22,335 per round or €320 per shot.

And he confessed that teeing it up without a care in the world has given him the freedom to play fear-free golf and scorch up the world and Ryder Cup rankings.

Up 63 places to 245th in the world and to 95th in the money list, McIlroy is still eighth in the Ryder Cup rankings.

But he's determined not to stop now and believes he has a great chance of challenging for victory the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura this week.

Order of Merit chaser Justin Rose, two time US Open champion Retief Goosen and Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood, David Howell, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke will all tee it up.

But McIlroy is not frightened by the big names after making a seamless transition from the amateur to the pro ranks.

Reflecting on his meteoric rise to the top, he said: "I don't know if it is just me playing very well or what, but the pro game hasn't been much different for me.

"I thought that playing in the last group for the first time on Sunday would be really different. But I just feel as if I am at another amateur event.

"I am not thinking about the money or anything, because I don't have to. I am just trying to go out and win golf tournaments now and that is what I did when I was an amateur. It really doesn't feel any different."

As for the cash, McIlroy hasn't batted an eyelid after signing major details with Jumeirah Resort in Dubai and the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh.

He said: "I didn't have to think about money even if I didn't get my card. I was in a position that I was able to go out and just play golf for a few years.

"Obviously now that I have my tour card so quickly, the objective is to go out and win golf tournaments and get my ranking up as much as possible.

"If I can do that it will be great and I am right up there in the Ryder Cup points list. If I can play well next week, have a good start to next season in Hong Kong and Australia and make a good start in 2008, I will be very happy.

"All I want to do now is try and get a win. A win would be great. Obviously it would be nice to be the youngest winner on tour but if that doesn't happen it doesn't really matter.

"I would have had to shoot 64 in Madrid to win and all credit to Mads (Vibe-Hastrup), he was too good for the rest of the field.

"I'd love to go out and win and be the youngest winner but I don't really care if I am 18, 19 or 20 when I do it. It is still a very young age to win on tour."

Winning in Portugal would be a huge achievement against a top class field.

But McIlroy sees no reason why he can't pull it off and smash Dale Hayes' record as the youngest winner in tour history.

He said: "If I can drive it on the fairway this week I feel I can win. My iron play has been really great for the last few weeks and if I can keep that up and give myself a lot of chances, there is no reason why I can't be up there and in contention on the last day again.

"I know it's going to be a good field but I beat most of those guys a few weeks ago so there is no reason why I can't go out and do it again."

Victory would give McIlroy a two year tour exemption while a top two finish would give him a dream start in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

But McIlroy is not too worried about chasing his place at Valderrama as his main goal was to earn his tour card.

He said: "If I finish in the top two this week, I will get into the Volvo Masters. I think I need another €200,000.

"If I did well but didn't get enough to get into the top 60 I won't be looking to go to Mallorca next week. And I haven't got an invite anyawy.

"The goal was to get my card and I have done that. Another top five in my third start is pretty nice as well but I am probably a bit disappointed that I couldn't get anything going in the last round in Madrid.

"Every time I made a birdie I seemed to give it straight back but I played the back nine in three under and I think I came back well."

Victory in Portugal would also put him ahead of Germany 's Martin Kaymer, currently 54th in the Order of Merit, in the race for Rookie of the Year honours.

But McIlroy joked: "It think I'd nearly have to win in Portugal and then the Volvo Masters. But it would be nice."