By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Former greats Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros have all written to Rory McIlroy to congratulate the youngster on his spectacular U.S. PGA Tour victory this month.

The Northern Irishman celebrated his 21st birthday two days early by blitzing his way to a closing 10-under 62 to finish four shots clear of world number two Phil Mickelson at the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina.

"There have been a lot of congratulations and a lot of letters which I really appreciate," McIlroy told reporters on the eve of the PGA Championship.

"I got two pieces of mail last Thursday, one from Jack Nicklaus and one from Arnold Palmer and it made me realize how special that win was."

"(In his letter) he said, 'I told you to be patient but that was just outrageous'," added the world number nine.

"Not a lot of people get to spend time with Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. It's great and I really appreciate they take an interest in my career."

McIlroy said he was equally pleased to receive a 'well done' message from five-times major winner Ballesteros.

"I got a really nice letter from Seve. He said, 'It's great what you have done especially to win over in America so early'.

"He also talked a bit about the Ryder Cup (in October) and about the European Tour and how proud he was of all the young players coming through," added McIlroy. "It was a very touching letter."

The Northern Irishman is now excited to be back playing in Britain for the first time in seven months.

"I haven't played in the UK since the Alfred Dunhill event in October," said McIlroy.

"It's great to be playing over in America but it's always nice to get back over to Europe and come back to familiar surroundings."

(Editing by Justin Palmer)