LONDON, England (CNN) -- When the Ryder Cup begins a year today, don't be surprised to see Rory McIlroy leading Europe's charge to reclaim the trophy.
Rory McIlroy in action during the Vivendi Trophy.
Not only did his assured performance in the recent Vivendi Trophy confirm what an asset he'd be to captain Colin Montgomerie's side, but the Northern Irishman put his name forward to take the fight to the U.S. holders on the first morning at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Fresh from seeing off world No.6 Henrik Stenson in the singles on Sunday, McIlroy declared he wants to lead the European attack: "I would love to do it," he said. "Ever since my amateur days I have always felt comfortable leading a team out. I like the responsibility of putting early points on the board."
It would signal a remarkable turnaround for the 20-year-old, who dismissed the prospect of participating in the Ryder Cup in May: "It's not a huge goal of mine. It's an exhibition at the end of the day. In the big scheme of things it's not that important an event for me," he said.
But a weekend competing for Great Britain and Ireland against Continental Europe has rekindled his desire to play in the bi-annual event, and help the team avenge their defeat in Kentucky back last year.
"It has made me realize how special team golf is," he said. "I made those Ryder Cup comments in the middle of the season when I wasn't remotely thinking about team golf."
Montgomerie was on hand to witness McIlroy's superb form first hand, and he did nothing to quell the fervor surrounding the hottest young prospect in the game at present.
"It is very rare you actually even play a rookie on Friday morning, never mind out first," said Montgomerie. "But we have a very special case here. He's the brightest young star in European golf, a breath of fresh air."
McIlroy's reputation on both sides of the Atlantic is growing. He burst onto the world stage as an amateur at the 2007 Open Championship, when he shot a three under par 68 in his opening round at Carnoustie aged just 18.
He turned pro that same year and finally scooped his maiden title at this year's Dubai Desert Classic. By the time he finished third in the US PGA Championship in August he had already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was on his way to star status.
Not only did the Vivendi Trophy reignite McIlroy's match play instincts it showed what a force he could prove in the Ryder Cup. McIlroy hits straight and long, and finds the green with unerring regularity, though extra work on his putting may need to be undertaken if holes are to be won consistently.
The tournament also unearthed McIlroy's perfect playing partner in fellow countryman Graeme McDowell. The two are firm friends off the course and had no trouble translating that relationship onto the fairways and greens in Paris.
The two Mc's racked up four points out of five. In fact, the only time McIlroy was on the losing side -- when he partnered McDowell against Anders Hansen and Francesco Molinari in the four-balls on day two -- was the only time he didn't lead the side out.
McIlroy said the partnership had the potential to last "ten years," while McDowell said he would like "nothing better" than to play with the 20-year old in the Ryder Cup. Paul McGinley, the Great Britain and Ireland captain, even mentioned the duo in the same breath as Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal - the most successful partnership in Ryder Cup history.
McIlroy proved his credentials in the singles too, and was gunning for a showdown with Henrik Stenson all week. He sank a five foot putt on the final green to secure a famous victory.
After his defeat the Swede talked in glowing terms about a player who is 13 years his junior and 18 places below him in the world rankings: "I think I proved to be a worthy opponent to Rory - he's playing fantastic," said the Swede. "I would expect him to be on the (Ryder Cup) squad next year."
Even Continental Europe's captain, Thomas Bjorn, added his own tribute, describing McIlroy's form as "sensational."
Of course, with the Ryder Cup a year away Colin Montgomerie has plenty of time to tinker with tactics and pairings, but don't bet against Rory McIlroy being the first name on his team sheet.