Key people in Rory McIlroy’s life in 2011 - new girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki and new manager Conor Ridge. Pictured in Dubai on December 10 by Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ieAll eyes will be on Rory McIlroy in 2012 following his major breakthrough at the US Open. His eight-shot win at Congressional was one of the stories of the year but he also captured headlines for his activities off the course and none came bigger than his decision to sack manager Chubby Chandler and take on Conor Ridge at Horizon Sports Management.

Other highlights of the final three months of the year included Michael Hoey’s stunning win over McIlroy and McDowell in the Dunhill Links Championship and Padraig Harrington’s failure to qualify for the Dubai World Championship.

October 2

“My belief has been high and low. At times I’ve thought, I’m unbelievably good and at times I’ve felt, I just don’t have the consistency, which is what it’s all about. Whereas now, I’ve got that consistency.”

Michael Hoey reflects on the biggest win of his career at the Alfred Dunhill Links.

October 21

“I am now keen to move onto the next stage of my career and I feel this will be facilitated by a fresh view and a new structure around me. Therefore I am delighted to be joining Horizon and I look forward to working with my new team. I would like to sincerely thank Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler and his team for their guidance, representation and management over the past four years since turning pro.”

Rory McIlroy announces that he’s leaving Chubby Chandler for Conor Ridge at Horizon Sports Management.

October 22

“I don’t know whether it was his girlfriend (world No 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki) getting in his ear or someone else but I thought we were doing a pretty good job, to be honest, and I think that’s how the outside world saw it… We sat down and he said he was not happy with his brand, sponsors, website or his public relations image.”

Chubby Chandler on losing Rory McIlroy to Horizon.

October 26

“He’s a very intelligent young man. He’s very headstrong and impulsive as we’ve seen in the past. He makes his own decisions and really never was going to listen to me.”

Graeme McDowell says he didn’t entice McIlroy to leave ISM for Horizon.

October 26

“Yeah, I always figured they were jokes with jabs.”

Graeme McDowell on the Twitter “banter” between Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.

November 2

“It was one of the more embarrassing weekends I have ever had on a golf course. I threw the towel in a little bit. I didn’t have a shot in the bag and I couldn’t make a putt either. That is how I have been this year. There’s an element of being ashamed of yourself, and an element of ‘What am I going to do about it’?”

Graeme McDowell after weekend rounds of 81 and 82 in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.

November 5

“I wanted to shove it up that black arsehole.”

Steve Williams wins Celebration of the Year at the annual caddie awards in Shanghai. This was Tiger’s ex-caddie’s response to a question asking why he was so excited about employer Adam Scott’s win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

November 6

“I feel as if it’s very attainable. It might not be this year, but definitely into next year, I can give myself a very good platform to kick off the season next year if I end the season well.”

Rory McIlroy sets his sights on reaching world No 1 after becoming the first Irish player to reach No 2. he finished the year at No 3 behind Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

November 18

“In truth, I haven’t played a lick since my last operation 18 months ago. Hopefully this new treatment will do the trick.”

Paul McGinley avoids an eighth knee operation by opting for a revolutionary treatment based on injections of his own blood.

November 21

“I am just a little bit stale or I’ve lost a little bit of lustre or faith in that side of my game because of the fact that I put some much importance on it.”

Padraig Harrington confesses that he is struggling with his mental game. He would go on to miss out on the Dubai World Championship.

November 26

“Sometimes golf is easy, sometimes golf is tough but today I was brutal!! #lovemyjob :-)”

Darren Clarke takes to Twitter to sum up his third round 79 in the Australian PGA Championship.

November 27

“We just didn’t have it out there today. We had no mojo, we didn’t make anything.”

A disappointed Graeme McDowell after he and Rory McIlroy failed to hold on and slipped from first overnight to fourth in the World Cup in China.

November 30

“For me, the Irish Open has always been, and will continue to be, one of the most important events on the global golf calendar.  It’s our national open and it’s obviously a title that I would love to win at some stage in my career.”

Rory McIlroy clears up any doubts and commits to the 2012 Irish Open.

December 4

“To be able to win golf tournaments when you are not playing your best is what the likes of Tiger Woods did week-in, week-out whenever he was winning seven, eight, nine tournaments a year. That something that if you want to be a great player, you’re going to have to do. I feel as if I am learning to do that and you know this is a great win.”

Rory McIlroy holed a bunker shot on the last to seal victory in the Hong Kong Open. It was his second win in the space of a few weeks.

December 7

“Tiger’s work ethic has always been tremendous and his mindset is what has separated him from the field when he was really at the top of the game. But I think Rory has more pure talent. I see him winning lots of tournaments and lots of majors.”

Luke Donald on McIlroy. He later clarified his remarks, insisting that Woods was still the greatest player he had ever seen.

December 11

“I can’t wait to go away. It will be nice not having to get up to practice or hit a shot and people won’t be telling me what to do or where to go.”

Rory McIlroy, suffering from Dengue fever, puts away his clubs after a stellar 2011 season.

December 14

“That’s it then.”

David Higgins just misses the cut at the European Tour Qualifying School. A strong finish from the last player on the course ended the 39-year old’s hopes.

December 15

“Yes, European golf has had a great four or five years. We’ve been winning the major championships and dominating world golf, no doubt about it. But I feel the tide is turning a little bit. The Americans are getting strong and they’ve got a great bunch of young players coming through who really see the Ryder Cup for what it is.”

Graeme McDowell knows the US will be gunning for some Ryder Cup revenge in 2012.

December 16

“I definitely felt like crying because the drive on the 13th was the one that took all my chances away. But I didn’t actually cry until the next morning, when I spoke to my mum and dad. I spoke to them before I went to the airport on the Monday. My mum might have said something like: ‘Oh don’t worry Rory, everything will be OK,’ and I just blubbed back: ‘No, it won’t be OK.’ “It was one of those things. There were so many thoughts and emotions going through my head. At the time it felt like the only chance I would have of winning at Augusta and I blew it.

“When did I last cry over golf? I don’t know - when I was kid, probably. It’s not worth crying over, is it? It’s only a game. Part of the motivation I had (at the US Open) was trying to prove something to myself, that I wasn’t one of those players who crumbles under the pressure, who folds, or chokes. I hate using the word choke but that’s exactly what happened at the Masters. I also wanted to prove people wrong, whether it was the media or just critics in general. I wanted to show them that the person they saw on Sunday at Augusta was not the real Rory McIlroy.”

Rory McIlroy on his tears after Augusta and the desire to prove he wasn’t a choker in the US Open.

December 21

“I’ve probably had the hangover from the best year of my life. 2011 was a very steep learning curve for me. I wouldn’t swop it for anything in the world. 2010 was special, the greatest year of my career. This year has been tough, no doubt about it. I’ve asked myself a lot of questions and I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, such as how to deal with being a Major champion and being one of the top players in the world.”

Graeme McDowell reflects on the year after the year before.

December 21

“If I look back on my career in 20 years, it’s very possible that that day in Augusta was probably the defining moment in my career. It was definitely the point where I reached the crossroads in my career where I could keep going the wrong way or really take responsibility for myself and say, ‘right, this is what I’ve got to do to get better and win, and improve as a player’. The Masters was huge for me. It was a huge disappointment at the time but reflecting on it, looking back on it, it was probably the most important day of my career so far… If that [final round meltdown] hadn’t happened and if I’d coasted and won the Masters, I’d never have learned the things I did learn about myself that day.”

Rory McIlroy on the important lesson he learned at Augusta.

December 31

“It is quite humbling to be included in such a list of worthy recipients. Many people on the honours list have made huge personal sacrifices and contributed significantly to society during their lives. I feel very fortunate to be in their company.”

Rory McIlroy on being awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

December 31

“It is a great honour and a fantastic way to end a great year. I am very proud for me and my family. Unfortunately my golf since the Open hasn’t been too special but at this time of the year when you go to awards dinners, it sinks in what you have managed to achieve.”

Darren Clarke on his MBE.