CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Thirty-two moments – memorable, controversial and otherwise – to celebrate Rory McIlroy’s 32nd birthday on Tuesday.
- McIlroy has eight career victories on the European Tour - not including WGC events or his PGA Championships, but including regular European Tour events and his Open title - with his first coming at the tender age of 19 at the ’09 Dubai Desert Classic, where he held off Justin Rose. “I just want to keep getting better and better,” he said at the time.
- His professional career started well before his breakthrough in 2010 at Quail Hollow Club, but his first PGA Tour victory was memorable for many reasons, including his course-record 62 on Sunday for a four-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo.
- Two days after that initial Tour victory, McIlroy celebrates his 21st birthday with a group of friends, including Rickie Fowler and Padraig Harrington, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “Had a few drinks and had a bit of dinner. Had a good time. It was good,” he says, before missing the cut at that week’s Players Championship.
- With one of the most spectacular collapses in Masters history, McIlroy begins the final round in 2011 leading by four shots but implodes with an 80 to finish tied for 15th place. “I'll have plenty more chances. I know that. It's very disappointing what happened today. Hopefully it'll build a little bit of character in me, as well,” says McIlroy, who remains winless at Augusta National.
Making the most of a soft Congressional layout, he romps to his first major title by an eight-stroke margin at the 2011 U.S. Open, his first major start after the Masters meltdown.
- After struggling on the weekend at Royal St. George’s (74-73), site of the 2011 Open, the Northern Irishman tells the media afterward that he’s “not a fan of golf tournaments that are predicted so much by weather.”
- He shoots four rounds in the 60s to win the 2012 Honda Classic by two strokes. The next day he moves to No. 1 in the world ranking for the first time in his career.
- In what may be his most dominant major performance - even more so than at Congressional - McIlroy wins the ’12 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island by eight strokes, which includes a round-of-the-week 66 on Sunday.
- Back-to-back playoff victories at the '12 Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship complete his best season on Tour, although he doesn’t win the FedExCup, following a tie for 10th at the Tour Championship.
Following a time-zone mix up, he arrives just in time for his Sunday singles match at the 2012 Ryder Cup with the help of a police escort. He wins his match and helps the European team complete a historic comeback at Medinah.
- After walking off the golf course midway through his second round at that 2013 Honda Classic with “tooth pain,” he later says it was a mistake and apologizes to tournament officials.
- He endures his first slump as a professional in 2013 with no Tour victories and just a single top-3 finish. He also fails to advance to the season finale at East Lake.
- An emotional victory at Royal Liverpool at the ’14 Open Championship ends his winless drought on Tour and moves him to within a Masters green jacket of the career Grand Slam.
- McIlroy follows his Open Championship victory with a dominant run to close the season with victories at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship; he is 31 under par over those two weeks. Despite a runner-up showing at the Tour Championship, he again comes up short in the season-long race.
Frustration boils over during the second round of the ’15 World Golf Championship at Doral and McIlroy flings his 3-iron into a lake. Donald Trump, who owns Doral, has the club fished from the lake and returns it to McIlroy. “Felt good at the time,” he says of the club toss.
- Although he has tickets to the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao title bout in Las Vegas, McIlroy remains in San Francisco for the weekend and wins the ’15 WGC-Match Play. Two weeks later, he adds his second title at Quail Hollow.
- A week before the ’15 Open at St. Andrews, he injures his left ankle playing soccer in his backyard. He misses the event and drops out of the top spot in the world ranking.
- In February ’16, McIlroy appears to respond to criticism from Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee with a social media post from one of his gym sessions. “I don’t know the full extent of what he’s doing, but when I see the things he’s doing in the gym, I think of what happened to Tiger Woods,” Chamblee says.
- After a season filled with near-misses (eight top-10 finishes in 15 starts), McIlroy closes strong with a victory at the ’16 Deutsche Bank Championship and he finally breaks through at East Lake to win the FedExCup, following a playoff victory over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore.
In what was widely billed as an instant classic, McIlroy goes head-to-head with Patrick Reed at the ’16 Ryder Cup. Although Reed wins the singles match, 1 up, it is considered one of the most emotionally charged bouts in the history of the matches.
- Despite a torrid start to the season (four top-10s through his first five starts of 2016-17), McIlroy is winless for just the second time in his Tour career.
- If ’17 was a wash professionally, McIlroy did enjoy a personal triumph when he marries Erica Stoll in April at Ashford Castle in Ireland.
- Another drought buster arrives in 2018 at Bay Hill, where McIlroy closes with a 64 for a three-stroke victory at Arnie’s Place.
- Thanks to a ball-striking masterpiece, McIlroy wins the ’19 Players Championship. For the week, he picks up 6.48 shots on the field in strokes gained: approach shots and 5.3 shots in strokes gained: off the tee.
Despite a confusing new scoring format at the Tour Championship, it is another dominant performance for McIlroy, who begins the week at 5 under in strokes-based scoring on his way to an 18-under total and a four-stroke victory.
- With a rival tour, the Premier Golf League, looming, McIlroy stands against the breakaway circuit in February 2020, telling reporters, “I would like to be on the right side of history.”
- Before the pandemic halts play, McIlroy reclaims the top spot in the world ranking following four consecutive top-5 finishes to start the year, but when the Tour resumes its schedule in June he fails to post another top-10.
- The highlight of the year comes in September when McIlroy and his wife announce the birth of the couple’s first child, Poppy Kennedy.
- He inadvertently finds himself embroiled in a rule snafu after taking a drop for an embedded ball at the ’21 Farmers Insurance Open after video later shows his golf ball bounced. McIlroy later explains a volunteer stepped on his golf ball.
- McIlroy becomes the first international player elected to the Tour’s policy board following two stints on the player advisory council. “On the PAC it’s great to be involved and it’s great to have your voice heard but that’s all it does. You don’t have a vote and being PAC chair, being on the policy board you have a vote and your voice actually counts,” he says.
- Mired in another slump - winnless on Tour since 2019 - McIlroy surprises many when he reveals in March ’21 he has started working with swing coach Pete Cowen. He later explains that longtime coach Michael Bannon will remain a part of his team.
- McIlroy enters this week's Wells Fargo Championship having dropped to 15th In the Official World Golf Ranking, his lowest position since November, 2009.