McIlroy on top of the world in Dubai

As battle begins to decide the Order of Merit, the 20-year-old prodigy tells James Corrigan why he has decided to switch to the US tour

First he will conquer Europe – and then he will move on to the Tour which really counts. That may sound a simplistic, if not disrespectful, assessment of the career path Rory McIlroy is planning to follow, but listening to the Ulsterman here yesterday it was difficult not to conclude that this Order of Merit title would be a mere forerunner of the accolades to come Stateside.

Certainly, for the European Tour hierarchy there would have been rather too many "best fields" and "better players" descriptions in McIlroy's eve-of-tournament press conference as he outlined the reasons why he has chosen to take up membership of the PGA Tour. They would have hoped that the entirety of the focus would have fallen on this remarkable golfer's attempt to become the second-youngest winner of their money list when the inaugural staging of the Dubai World Championship begins here this morning. Yet however golden the present might seem, the future continues to promise so much more.

"I had an opportunity to join the best fields in golf," said the 20-year-old. "Most of the events I'll play over there will include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker... I'll be playing with better players. I want to challenge myself against the best in the world."

First things first, there is the best in Europe to take care of and, although he holds a lead of more than £110,000 at the head of the standings, McIlroy's task is anything but a stroll to the £900,000 "Race to Dubai" bonus. Lee Westwood is his nearest pursuer and if the world No 5's chance is obvious then the challenges of Martin Kaymer, the 24-year-old German, and Ross Fisher, the 28-year-old Englishman, must also not be discounted. The recipient of the Harry Vardon Trophy on Sunday will emerge from this quality quartet.

Even allowing for the suspicion that a new layout which amounts to little more than a resort course will render this a glorified putting contest, Westwood is the main threat. The pair have enjoyed plenty of banter in the build-up and it is interesting that, before saying yea or nay to the Americans, McIlroy went to Westwood for advice. He also went to Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and his manager, Chubby Chandler. The fact he ignored them all shows the confidence of the lad. "I listened to my heart," he said. "The thing about Darren and Lee is that they both tried playing in America and it didn't work out. I get the feeling they would rather stay in Europe. I want to venture out and test my skills against the best in the world. Sometimes that's in America, sometimes that's over here."

So what will be the ratio? Chandler revealed yesterday that Mclroy's home tour should not be despondent. "It will be far from disastrous for the European Tour," he said. "Rory will only play a few tournaments less over here. I did think he should stay in Europe, because of the fatigue factor. But then you realise it has been his dream since he was 11 to play the PGA Tour and that his dad used to allow him to stay up late to watch it and then you think that at 20, if it all goes wrong, has he lost anything? No. I don't think he feels as if he's conquered Europe, but he wants to try the next stage. Normal rules don't apply to Rory."

Indeed, progress has occurred at a spectacular pace. McIlroy arrived in Dubai at the end of January, still living in his parents' terraced house and driving an Audi. Nine months on from his maiden win, McIlroy owns a Ferrari and is awaiting delivery of a Lamborghini. He resides in a 14-acre estate in Co Down. "When I turned pro in '07 I never thought I would get to this point so quickly," said McIlory, in just his second full season. "But after winning in Dubai I said my goal would be to try and break into the world's top 10 by the end of the year. Another good week here might get me there."

McIlroy is currently No 13 and a top-two placing would see him joining some illustrious names from both past and present. But they are names the impending European No 1 would plainly feel comfortable alongside. Here he was asked which route he would wish to take to the top – the Seve way or the Faldo way. "Nothing against Nick, but Seve had a lot more fans," said McIlroy. "He was the man." Ballesteros also happened to be the boy who won the Order of Merit when he was just 19. The precedents genuinely are that giddying.

TV: Sky Sports 1/HD1 (08:00-13:00)

Order of Merit: How they stand

Rory McIlroy First – £2,274,188

Will take the crown regardless of how he plays if Westwood is outside the top seven, Kaymer the top four and Fisher the top two.

Lee Westwood Second – £2,159,359

Cannot be stopped if he wins. If second he will be champion if McIlroy is not first or tied second and Kaymer does not win.

Martin Kaymer Third – £2,089,718

Cannot be stopped if he wins. If he is second he will be champion if McIlroy and Westwood are not first or tied second and Fisher does not win.

Ross Fisher Fourth – £1,885,904

Has to finish first or second just to have a chance. If he wins he will still be denied if McIlroy or Westwood finishes second.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering