Rory McIlroy has revealed that a childhood snub by Roy Keane is the reason that he gives so much time to his young fans.
McIlroy received praise for taking time out of his round at the British Masters to give one of his golf balls to a supporter in the crowd. The Northern Irish golfer admitted that he always has time for his fans, after a chance encounter with former Manchester United midfielder Keane many years ago.
"I must use between six and nine balls a round, and every time I need a new one, I look for a young kid in the crowd in between holes to give it to," McIlroy told reporters.
"It just shows what such a small thing can mean to a kid. I had it go the other way for me, where I asked someone for an autograph as a kid and they didn't give it to me. And I've never liked them since.
"It was Roy Keane. He should be one of my heroes because I was, and still am, a huge Man United fan. But I remember I went and asked him for his autograph at the Portmarnock Links Hotel when he was with the Ireland squad and he just said: 'No'. And it just sort of stuck with me ever since. So, that's why if a kid asks me for an autograph, I always try to do it."
The 28-year-old is hopeful that Northern Ireland can pull off a shock result against Germany and secure their place in the playoffs for the 2018 World Cup when they host Joachim Low's side in Belfast on Thursday.
The Green and White Army are guaranteed second spot in the group thanks to a series of impressive performances under Michael O'Neill, and McIlroy is cautiously optimistic that they can upset the world champions.
"If Germany play anything like Bayern Munich have been playing, Northern Ireland might have a chance," McIlroy said.
"I don't know - I think we're close enough. We're in a good position in the table. Park the bus, nil-nil draw wouldn't be a bad result.
"Hopefully they get the job done, but it's been a great campaign and hopefully I'm making a trip to Moscow at some point next summer."