Rory can finally toast US win with a beer
BASH: Our hero hits 21 and the right to have a drink
GOLFER Rory McIlroy celebrates his 21st birthday in style today following his breakthrough victory at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
The Northern Irish star blitzed his competitors, who included US Masters champion Phil Mickelson, to become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 1996.
McIlroy shot a course record 62 to finish four shots ahead of Mickelson to scoop the nearly €900,000 prize.
"I suppose I just got in the zone," McIlroy said of his sensational victory.
"I didn't realise I was going eight, nine, 10 under par. I just knew I'd got my nose in front, I was just trying to stay there."
Mickelson hailed McIlroy as an "amazing talent".
"To win [on the tour] at 20 is incredible. He's some kind of player," he said.
McIlroy's only previous tournament win as a professional came at last year's Dubai Classic.
He jumped four places to ninth in the latest world rankings after his Quail Hollow success.
"It's been a crazy ride to this point and to get my first win in the US is very special and to do it on a course like this is even better," McIlroy said. "I'm going to have a bit of a party on Tuesday night at Sawgrass [for his 21st]," he added.
The prize money will be diverted into the completion of a practice facility at his house at Lough Erne.
As of today, he is old enough to legally drink a beer in the US as he celebrates his milestone.
Despite the riches sure to come his way, McIlroy's manager Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler said the respect the golfer has earned with the win is the biggest prize.
"What's great for him, and one of the biggest things to come out of all this, is that his peers now realise how good he is," Chandler said.
"Everybody in the game respects him now -- and not just because he is a young kid with a lot of potential but because he has done it."
Most of McIlroy's big contracts do not expire for another two years and Chandler is in no hurry to replace them with a huge corporate deal.
"In commercial terms it means nothing because all he is doing is realising his potential and a lot of people have already backed his potential," Chandler said.