By Brian Keogh
Man United mad Rory McIlroy skipped the Red Devils’ title clincher to prepare for an eight-week tournament run worth a massive €28 million.
The Ulster ace, 19, has played just nine times in 2008 as he conserves his energy for a summer cash bonanza starting in this week’s Irish Open at Adare Manor.
And instead of travelling to Wigan to watch Alex Ferguson lift his 10th Premier League crown, Old Trafford regular McIlroy hit the range to work on his driving.
Hoping his hard work will pay off in Limerick this week, McIlroy said: “I haven’t played as much as other guys on tour this year because I have tried to pace myself for this part of the season.
“There are some huge, massive tournaments coming up. You’ve got the Irish Open this week, the PGA at Wentworth and the Wales Open.
“Then I have qualifying for the US Open and hopefully if I can play well I will get into that and then there is Germany, France, the European Open and Loch Lomond - a whole run of massive tournaments.
“I have tried to pace myself for that and hopefully it will pay off. Time will tell.”
McIlroy celebrated his 19th birthday alone in a Japanese hotel room after finishing tied 33rd in the Chunichi Crowns Tournament in Nagoya.
But instead of watching local TV, he hooked up his laptop and watched Peter Lawrie win Ireland’s fourth European Tour title of the season in the Spanish Open.
Inspired by wins for pals Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell as well as Damien McGrane’s amazing victory in Beijing, McIlroy hopes to get in on the act and win his first title this year
But he knows it won’t be easy to get over the winning line with so many great players competing every week.
Speaking at Royal Dublin, where he did a company day for his sponsors Bennett and FL Partners, McIlroy said: “I’ve been playing very consistently, very steady, without doing any spectacular. You just need to get on a bit of a run and hole a few putts and just go with it. One week can make the difference.
“Obviously it would be nice to end the year having a win under my belt, especially when you see the likes of Damien and Peter winning.
“They have been on tour for a lot longer than me and hat was their first wins. It just shows how tough it is to win on tour.”
McIlroy will be playing his first Irish Open as a professional after missing the cut as an amateur at Carton House in 2005.
He could do with a run of decent results as he sits 116th in the Order of Merit with five missed cuts from 11 starts since the season began last November.