By Brian Keogh

Holywood star Rory McIlroy got a personalised number plate for his 18th birthday today.

But the Ulster hotshot - registration RMC1Y - really wants Tiger Woods's number when he makes his Major championship debut in the Open in July.

McIlroy will tee it up at Carnoustie as the reigning European Amateur champion.

And he's keeping his fingers crossed that he might get the chance to take on superstar Woods and beat him too!

He beamed: "Turning 18 is not going to make a huge difference. At least I'll be able to have legal drink on my birthday.

"But what I am really looking forward to is the Open in July because it is an opportunity to go out and prove myself and play well. It is great that I am playing in my first major so young.

"I think Tiger was 19 when he played in the Masters as an amateur so it is a tremendous achievement to get into the Open at such a young age and I am going to go out there and try and enjoy it."

McIlroy will be more than a year younger than Woods was when he makes his Major debut at Carnoustie on July 19.

And while he is happy just to be in the field, he says he'd love the chance to go head to head with the world No 1 and boost his confidence before he turns professional in September.

He added: "I'd love to play with Tiger. It would really spur me on with the crowds there.

"I'd love to try and match him shot for shot and to try and beat him. If you are beating Tiger you are doing okay."

McIlroy admits that his confidence took a knock when he missed the cut in the Portuguese and Spanish Opens on the European Tour recently.

In between, he failed in his bid to win a hat-trick of West of Ireland championships and slumped from second to seventh in the world amateur rankings.

But he hopes to bounce back to form over the next three weeks with the Walker Cup selectors keeping a close eye on the Lytham Trophy, the Irish Amateur Open and the Brabazon Trophy.

McIlroy said: "I think my game is there. It is just a matter of performing well in the big events.

"Obviously, missing the cut in Portugal and Spain recently was disappointing for me. I didn't really play well.

"It's just a matter of having one good week and playing well in Dubai earlier this year gave me a lot of confidence because I was beating a lot of players.

"I have played decent golf in the pro events but decent golf just doesn't cut it on the European Tour.

"My confidence was knocked a little bit in Spain and Portugal alright. I got off to two bad starts but at least I feel comfortable in that atmosphere.

"It is all about learning and feeling comfortable and I am starting to do that. And I won the Sherry Cup anyway, which was a great win on a tough course."

Golf's top amateurs will be at Royal Lytham today for the first round of the prestigious Lytham Trophy.

And McIlroy feels confident that he can contend for the title after blowing his chances of victory with three putts on the final green last year.

He said: "Hopefully I can get another win over the next three weeks because I was very close to winning the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Amateur Open last year.

"I was third at Lytham last year and had a putt to win but three putted the 18th. I am playing with a fade now as well which is perfect around that golf course.

"It’s playing hard and fast as well and you can't just bomb driver down the left on the second and third now.

"You have to hit a two iron or a three wood up the middle and plot your way around so I am looking forward to it."

As for his 18th birthday party - that will have to wait until Monday, when up to 80 friends and family will get together in a Belfast city centre club.