Eleven years on and Rory McIlroy has returned to the Omega European Masters high in the Swiss Alps looking for the one that got away.
It was 2008 and McIlroy was competing on the Crans-sur-Sierre course for a first occasion, and the memories that week of letting slip a first pro victory remain as fresh as the Alpine air.
I was present that day watching from just short of the final green when the then World No. 172 ranked Northern Irishman, (his current ranking having moved up a place from No. 3 in brilliantly capturing last week’s PGA Tour season-ending Tour Championship), looked all set to be fitted with the traditional red winner’s jacket for a first European Tour win.
Back then the curly-haired McIlroy was leading by a shot heading up the 72nd hole but missed a five-foot putt for par to send the event into a play-off with Frenchman Jean Francois Lucquin.
Then at the first extra play-off hole McIlroy had just a wedge into the green but a clearly pumped-up Ulsterman horribly ‘over-cooked’ his approach shot, sending it way past the flag and through to the back of the green, handing Lucquin his only Tour win.
“Looking back, I had a wonderful opportunity to win my first event on Tour here,” said McIlroy.
“I was leading going into the last day, had a one-shot lead playing the last and wasn’t able to make par from there. Was beaten in the play-off.
“It’s still to this day the one event that I think of that I would like to re-do and get a mulligan.”
McIlroy returned a year later to finish seventh while he was third in both 2011 and 2012 and now is clearly feeling as though he’s owed a Swiss Masters title.
“It would have been nice to go home with the trophy but I have plenty more tournaments even this year,” said McIlroy.
“It would be great to get a win this year but if not I have the rest of my career. C’est la vie.”
The now 30-year old McIlroy has been coerced back to the Swiss Alps on a deal with Omega after missing this year’s similarly-sponsored Dubai Desert Classic.
And instead of EasyJet to Geneva as was the scenario in 2008, he arrived earlier this week via private jet from Atlanta accompanied by his wife and her parents.
“The first time I was here I fell in love with the place, the people, the atmosphere,” he said. “I’m glad that it worked out this year that I could be here. I would like to give myself another chance at least.
“My wife and her parents are here this week so it’s nice to show them around. They had never been here before. They went to Zermatt today, went up to the glacier yesterday.
“I still have a golf tournament to play so I can’t do it all with them but it’s been fun. Being able to walk from the hotel to the first tee is nice. Just the atmosphere of the village is nice.”
Joining McIlroy this week are fellow Irishmen Padraig Harrington, Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan.
IRISH TEE TIMES – Irish time
Paul Dunne – 7am
Rory McIlroy – 7.30am
Gavin Moynihan – 11.50am
Padraig Harrington – 12.20pm
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