20 Things You Absolutely Must Know About Rory McIlroy

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20 Things You Absolutely Must Know About Rory McIlroy

July 20, 2014

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

He's one of the top money earners in golf

According to the Golf Digest Top Earners list, McIlroy pulled in $47 million is 2015. Only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth made more.

Photo By: Getty Images

He remains on the brink of history

McIlroy's two-shot British Open win at Royal Liverpool in 2014 inched him closer to a place among the game's all-time greats. The victory made the 25-year-old McIlroy the third-fastest player to complete three legs of the Grand Slam. "I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly," McIlroy said after earning the claret jug. All Rory needs is a green jacket to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen as players who have won all four professional majors.

He's won the Player of the Year award twice

In 2012 and 2014, years in which he won the PGA Championship. He was also the leading money winner in both seasons.

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When he wins majors, he wins big

McIlroy's wins follow a similar pattern: He races out in front and leaves his pursuers to gasp in vain to catch up. Also apparent is how comfortable he is going deep into red numbers. Of McIlroy's 19 worldwide wins as a pro, 18 have featured a winning score of 12 under par or better.

His move to Nike didn't get off to a great start

Equipment changes predicated on new endorsement deals frequently come with bumpy transition periods, and McIlroy's switch to the Swoosh in 2013 proved no exception. In his first three starts after his splashy signing announcement, McIlroy missed the cut at Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the WGC-Match Play and had a questionable WD at the Honda Classic. The storyline wouldn't vanish until he finally began to contend again later in the year.

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His driving is crazy good

Though injury prevented him from qualifying in 2015, Rory McIlroy ranked third on the PGA Tour in driving distance the season before at 310.5 yards, amazing given he gives up about six inches in height to the two guys in front of him, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. At the 2014 Scottish Open, McIlroy drove the green on the 436-yard, par-4 13th at Royal Aberdeen. As Rickie Fowler once said, "When his driving is on, Rory is almost unstoppable."

He's had an eventful romantic life

McIlroy had a high-profile romance with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, whom he was engaged with before an awkward break-up, and was briefly linked to model Nadia Forde. At the end of 2015, McIlroy became engaged with former PGA Tour employee Erica Stoll.

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He was something of a childhood TV golf celeb

You might have seen videos of Rory when he was 9 years old, on stage, hitting golf balls into a washing machine. That wasn't a reenactment; like Tiger, Rory's golf skills helped him gain legions of loyal fans even from a young age.

He has his own video game

McIlroy replaced Tiger Woods as the namesake for EA Sports' PGA Tour golf game in 2014.

He had a Road Hole bunker replica in his backyard

Wonder why Rory's so good around the greens? It helps to have a replica of the Road Hole bunker at St. Andrews -- one of the most difficult pot bunkers in the world -- in his backyard in Northern Ireland. He sold the house in 2013, but the practice has obviously paid off.

He's had the same coach since he was a boy

For all of the changes in McIlroy's life since turning pro -- a relative whirlwind of managers, girlfriends, and endorsement deals -- one constant has been his longtime swing coach Michael Bannon. Bannon, who has been the head pro for 15 years at Bangor Golf Club outside Belfast, first met McIlroy while he was an assistant pro at Holywood Golf Club near the star's boyhood home. Although still based in Northern Ireland, Bannon works with McIlroy regularly, often helping the star return to the fundamentals that make his swing a technical and aesthetic wonder. "He's a great model for the flow you see in his swing," Bannon told Golf Digest Senior Editor Peter Morrice. "It's a real swinging motion from start to finish -- no bits and pieces. There are no kinks in it."

He's a big Manchester United fan

A lifelong fan and season-ticket holder, McIlroy had the thrill of doing a Nike commercial with Manchester United star Wayne Rooney in 2013 and often tweets about the team.

He might have the most dynamic golf swing on tour.

On his backswing, Rory McIlroy turns his hips 44 degrees and his shoulders 108 degrees, according to this ESPN segment. What that means is simple: Those two numbers measure torque, so the more separation you have between the two numbers, the more torque you have in your swing and the farther you'll hit the ball. Rory has 64 degrees of difference between the two, which is a lot. That's why he's only 5-foot-10 but still one of the longest hitters on tour.

He overslept at the Ryder Cup and almost missed his tee time

The 2012 Ryder Cup wasn't his first, but you'd still expect it to cause Rory a few sleepless nights. The same thing with the final round of the 2012 PGA Championship, when Rory was on the verge of winning his second major. But neither did: Rory overslept both times and almost missed his tee times, a managing to get to the first hole just in time. It's probably best he doesn't make a habit of it. Even still, both occasions speak to his free-wheeling personality and ease under pressure.

He's buds with Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has had plenty of pals among his co-workers through the years, but McIlroy is the only truly great player that Woods has let into his circle of friendship. The two became close at the end of the 2012 season, often being paired together during that year's FedEx Cup Playoffs. When McIlroy switched to Nike at the start of 2013, he and Woods starred in a commercial in which the two compete on a driving range.

He's really streaky

Everything about Rory's game is aggressive: He pulls driver a lot, swings hard, attacks pins, and his swing has a lot of moving parts. When all those things click into place -- like they did at the three majors he won -- he's practically unbeatable. But it's a two-edged sword: When things go south, he's unable to right the ship, as evidenced at the Masters in 2016. "When he gets it going, he gets it going," Tiger Woods said of Rory's game. "When it gets going bad, it gets going real bad."

He shot a 61 at Royal Portrush at 16

Let's just say Rory's dad probably wouldn't have gotten 500-to-1 odds on his 15-year-old winning the British Open if this had happened first. At 16, McIlroy shot 61 to break Royal Portrush's course record.And McIlroy got some good news regarding the historic track and 1951 British Open site. The R&A announced that the 2019 tournament will return to Royal Portrush.

He nearly went to the U.S. to play college golf

In November 2004, McIlroy signed a national letter of intent to play at East Tennessee State beginning the following fall. College golf had helped the development of another prominent Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell at UAB, and two good friends were already on the ETSU squad. Before enrolling, agents persuaded McIlroy he would be ready to turn pro in a few years rather than come stateside. Even ETSU coach Fred Warren has admitted: "He was too good."

He's transformed his body

Listed generously as 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, McIlroy might not seem terribly imposing from a distance. But look closer and one can see he's put ample time into his physique, which explains how he generates such immense power from such a modest frame. In fall 2010, McIlroy took up with accomplished trainer Steve McGregor, who helped correct some of the physical imbalances that arose from a lifetime of McIlroy hitting golf balls. According to Men's Health, Rory also worked on strengthening his lower body. Eventually the star dropped his body fat from 22 to 16 percent, and his newfound core strength has helped him go after a driver more aggressively without losing his balance.

His off-course business dealings have been complicated

For a player so genuinely affable, McIlroy has spent a lot of time with lawyers in recent years. After starting his pro career under manager Chubby Chandler, McIlroy switched to Horizon Sports Management, which was also representing his buddy Graeme McDowell. But McIlroy left when he felt Horizon was not looking out for his best interests, and eventually filed suit against the agency because he felt he was coaxed into unfavorable deals. That lawsuit is ongoing, and it comes on the heels of another suit involving McIlroy, in which former sponsor Oakley said the player breached his contract with the company by signing with Nike. The two parties eventually settled their dispute out of court.

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