Began playing golf at age three and was taught by his father, Victor, a club professional who has played on the European Senior Tour. A precocious talent, he won his club championship at age 12. Four years later, he set a record as the youngest player to make the cut at a European Tour event, doing so in Spain, before becoming the youngest player to win the European Amateur. Won a professional tournament, the 1997 Catalonian Open, on the European Challenge Tour, as an amateur and in 1998 won the British Amateur Championship. Turned professional on 21 April 1999 and took just two months to win his first pro title, the Irish Open. He also finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in the US PGA Championship to earn a Ryder Cup place while still a teenager. Lost to Padraig Harrington in a play-off for The Open Championship in 2007 and was second again in 2014.