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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
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

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past