Rory McIlroy’s Christmas came early this week when, despite not playing last week due to an upset stomach, the County Down native was ranked ninth in the latest word golf rankings.

The jump from eleventh to ninth means that McIlroy, at 20, is the youngest player to ever rank so high, topping the 2000 tenth place ranking of the then 20-year-old Sergio Garcia.

McIlroy's consistent play all year contributed to his high ranking and his performances in the year’s majors were also hugely important in his meteoric rise to the top of the world golfing charts

Earlier this year McIlroy said he wanted to play the US PGA Tour so he could crack the top ten in the rankings.

“I just feel that I will become a better golfer if I also play in America.  I will be playing in world class fields with more world ranking points on offer, and the only way for me to get better is to play alongside better players," he said.

"I want to become a better player and the best way to develop my game is to be playing more in the States, and playing a worldwide schedule."

This unexpected Christmas bonus means McIlroy can look forward to the new season with even more confidence.

Tiger Woods, despite announcing that he would be taking an indefinite leave from professional golf, is still the number one ranked golfer.

Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is ranked fifth in the world.