ST ANDREWS, Scotland, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy became the youngest player ever to earn a European tour card from tournament-play when he finished third in the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.
The 18-year-old picked up a prize of $300,000 after his total of 15-under 273 put him three shots behind winner Nick Dougherty of England.
McIlroy picked up his playing rights in only his second event as a professional and achieved the feat in the shortest time on the European Tour.
“I knew at the start of the week I needed to do something pretty special to get my tour card and I am absolutely ecstatic,” McIlroy told reporters after carding a 68 on Sunday.
“There have been a lot of great players come into the game pretty young, obviously Tiger (Woods) and Sergio (Garcia) and I’m trying to take it all in my stride.
“When I talked about my chances of making the card this week to Lee (Westwood) he told me I could win the tournament.
“When someone like Lee tells you that it gives you a lot of confidence. Hopefully this is a huge step for bigger and better things.”
McIlroy kept his cool in the final round despite driving out of bounds on the 14th for a double bogey at the Old Course.
He made amends with three birdies in the last four holes for a round of four-under 68.
His exhilarating finish at the home of golf on Sunday surpassed Sergio Garcia’s achievement. The Spaniard had earned his card at 19 after his fourth event as a professional.