Rory McIlroy has taken some pretty big strides in his first full season on the European Tour and if things go to plan at Valderrama he will be stepping out in many of next year’s major events in a natty pair of black suede shoes.
The 19-year-old from Holywood in Co Down has earned €666,835 so far this season and if he can clinch a top-three finish in the Volvo Masters, he will have done enough to don the flashy new range of spikes he has ordered for the 2009 campaign in the Open Championship, the US Open and two of golf’s lucrative World Golf Championship events.
Ranked 35th in the Order of Merit, the former world amateur number one is bursting with confidence after clinching his fourth top-ten finish from his last five starts in Castellon last weekend.
“It has been a great last couple of months,” said McIlroy, who has jumped from 232nd in to 81st in the world rankings so far this year. “I have played really nicely and I will try and keep that up. All I want to do is get world ranking points and move up the Order of Merit.
“There are massive world ranking points this week. Obviously the top 30 on the Order of Merit get into the Open, the top 20 get into the WGC at Doral and the top 15 play the US Open. The top 64 in the world will get into the Accenture Match Play in Arizona in February so that’s all I’m thinking about.”
McIlroy missed nine cuts this season before caressing his maiden victory in the Omega European Masters at Crans Sur Sierre in September, where he had a five-foot putt to win but eventually lost to Jean Francois Lucquin in a play-off.
Yet he regards that disappointment as a blessing in disguise and used it as springboard to an impressive run of form that has seriously impressed world number five Padraig Harrington.
“The turning point was finishing second in the Omega European Masters in September,” McIlroy explained. “Thinking about it now, if I had won that event, I probably wouldn’t have played as well the last few weeks. I am more determined now to do well and try and get a win.
“I am making enough birdies every week to win tournaments but I am just trying not to make stupid bogeys and all that comes with experience.Last week I was just trying to push a little too hard. I was six under for the round. If I finish six under, I finish third in the tournament."
Harrington reckons McIlroy has done brilliantly to turn his season around after a tough start and believes that the young pretender will go from strength to strength on the back of it.
“You're always going to hit speed bumps at some stage, and the guys who are really good are the guys who can come through that," Harrington said.
“It would have been very easy for Rory to get lost out here on the Tour and go away and think that this is a tough life. But he's come back very strong at the end of it and looks like he can continue to improve and become a world‑class player of the future. He's been tested once and he'll be tested again I'm sure, but he's come out very strong."