Rory McIlroy knows he must control his volcanic personality if he is to make it as a pro.
Just 48-hours after saying goodbye to his fans in the Walker Cup, the Holywood hotshot will take his first step towards megabucks professional career when he tees it up in the first stage of the European Tour Q-School at The Oxfordshire today.
He will not officially turn professional until next week’s Quinn Direct British Masters at the Belfry, where his agent Chubby Chandler is set to announce lucrative contract deals for golf’s hottest property.
But after dedicating the last two years of his life to playing golf full-time, McIlroy confessed that he must become more like ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Padraig Harrington and control his temper on the course.
Recognising his tendency to explode when things go wrong, McIlroy said: “I sometimes get a little down on myself and so do most golfers.
“But not Padraig. He always just keeps himself going. His determination to get everything out of his game is incredible.”
McIlroy exploded a few times in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down - smashing his club into the turf on a couple of occasions after some bad shots.
And after earning just one and half points from his four outings in Great Britain and Ireland’s narrow Walker Cup defeat, he knows he has to learn to deal with the pressure that has been heaped on his young shoulders.
A grudge singles win over loudmouth Billy Horschel finished with McIlroy accusing the American of using gamesmanship to put him off.
But he will need to develop a thick skin over the next few months as he wades into the shark-infested waters of professional golf.
Speaking from the Oxfordshire, where he played a practice round with Walker Cup team mate Lloyd Saltman, McIlroy confessed that the pressure to perform at Royal County Down was great preparation for the pro game.
He said: “It was the most pressure I’ve ever felt. Even more than the Open. I was probably followed by the most people and I was the one they expected to win all the time.
“I didn’t think I would feel as much pressure but I did. Coming onto tee boxes they were shouting ‘come on Rory, come on Rory’ and you just have to try and perform for them as well. It wasn’t too bad but I have to admit it’s hard to do it.”
McIlroy lost to Horschel in Saturday’s singles - three-putting on the 18th to gift the match to the American when he had a putt to win himself.
And while he didn’t hand around for long in Newcastle to drown his sorrows with his team mates, he believes he stood up well to the pressure.
He said: “I was happy enough with the way I played all week. I sort of threw away a match in the first singles against Horschel
“I should have taken something out of that game. If I had a chance again, I would probably still go for that putt to win and maybe hit a better second putt.
“It was disappointing that we lost but I didn’t hang around for long afterwards. I had to leave early to get back home and get organised for the Q School this week.”
As for Horschel, McIlroy will not be too upset if they never meet again after putting up with the American’s bustling on Saturday and Sunday.
He said “I saw him a bit later on. He was okay off the course, you know. He’s actually not a bad guy. It’s just on the course he’s a bit over the top.”
Getting his tour card is McIlroy’s No 1 goal and his first task is to finish in the top 30 in this week’s qualifier at the Oxfordshire.
Following his pro debut in next week’s British Masters at the Belfry, McIlroy will get a week off before playing the prestigious Dunhill Links, the Portuguese Masters, the Madrid Open and Mallorca Classic on sponsor’s invitations.
A trip to Australia for the Australian Open has also been lined up for later in the year for one of golf’s hottest properties.
But rumours that he has been offered appearance money to play in Morocco and Japan are news to McIlroy.
And he also shot down talk that he is about to sign professional deals worth between €2 and €4 million.
McIlroy insisted: “I’ve heard all sorts of talk about money but it’s nothing like that.
“I think I’ll be comfortable for the next few years and will only have to worry about going out and playing golf because everything else will be pretty much paid for.”
Finishing in the top 30 at the Oxfordshire, where he will be joined by Ireland’s Eamonn Brady and Damian Mooney, is top of his agenda right now
He said: “The course is a lot like the Mongtomerie at Carton House. It’s sort of style with that fescue grass around the place. It’s quite unulating.
“It fits my eye but I just have to concentrate on getting into the top-30 and getting into the next stage. Then I can enjoy myself for the next few weeks and hopefully try and get my card that way as well.”
To earn his card on invitations, McIlroy would have to earn enough cash from five events to finish in the top 115 on the money list.
For now he’ll settle for a place in November’s second stage of the qualifying school. He has a lot of learning to do over the next few months.