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February 22 2011

2:04 AM

McIlroy: Youth movement “incredible”

Interview: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy talks to the media about his match play approach and the other young golfers in the field.

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MARANA, Ariz. -- It wasn't exactly a "Hello, World" moment. But two years ago this week Rory McIlroy introduced himself to the global game.

McIlroy, who was just 19 at the time, came to Dove Mountain riding the wave of a win in Dubai. He went on to reach the quarterfinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

McIlroy has since added a win at the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA TOUR and is now ranked seventh in the world. Interestingly, too, is the fact that he's now something of an "elder" statesman with three teenagers in the field this week.

Italy's Matteo Manassero, who turns 18 in April, has already won on the European Tour, as has Korea's Seung-yul Noh, who is 19. And Ryo Ishikawa, who is 19, already has 11 victories on the Japan Tour. 

"I played Matteo this morning and it's hard to believe he's in this tournament as a 17-year-old," McIlroy said. "It's pretty incredible, really. And there's so many young guys coming through, even the younger guys like Noh Seung-yul from Korea and you've got Ryo Ishikawa, Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero and myself, all guys that are 21 and younger. 

"I think it's great. It's great for the game of golf, it makes it a little more exciting. And add to that group the likes of Dustin Johnson, I think him, the guys that are in their mid 20s, it's exciting times for golf."

That said, much is expected from the young Irishman with that distinctive mop of curly brown hair. In fact, recently on Twitter his countryman, Graeme McDowell, picked McIlroy as his favorite at the Masters -- and that comes from the reigning U.S. Open champion, no less.

"I think he's one of the most talented players ever I've had the pleasure of playing with," said McDowell, who has become a close friend. "He's only won twice, but he's a young man, and he's No. 7 player in the world.  So he's got there with consistency, as opposed to just having big weeks here and there.  He's a hell of a consistent player.

"I played with him this morning.  He makes the game look incredibly easy.  And I think he's got a game that probably suits the like of Augusta. The way he drives the ball, it's only a matter of time before he gets his head around a golf course like Augusta.

"His golf brain is young, but he makes up for it with a lot of talent and skill. And once the golf brain matures, and he keeps coming to golf courses like this, and Augusta, and Open golf courses, it's only a matter of time until he gets his head around and it understands how to control his talent.  And it's going to be pretty scary what the guy can achieve.

“That's great.  I think we've got a lot of young players coming through like Rory, Rickie Fowlers, Ryo Ishikawas, and Matteo Manasseros, I think the game is really healthy. We've got a lot of super stars in the making. And it's been great to match Rory's career unfold the last few years, and to watch it unfold the next ten years, I think he can really be a great player."

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