Depth of emerging young talent gives pro golf bright future, says McIlroy

rory mcilroy
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At age 21, Rory McIlroy is seventh in the world rankings and owns two professional titles.
Mark Garrod
PA Sport


Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | 4:55 p.m.

Rory McIlroy believes the influx of young talent into the game means that golf is set for an exciting future,

McIlroy is one of the leading figures of that youth movement, lying seventh in the world rankings with two professional titles to his name at the age of just 21.

The Northern Irishman will be among the leading contenders at this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, where he faces a first-round clash with Jonathan Byrd on Wednesday.

Promising Italian youngster Matteo Manassero will be the youngest player in the 64-strong field at the age of just 17, and McIlroy believes golf fans will get to see some intriguing battles as the current crop develop.

"Yeah, I played Matteo this morning and it's hard to believe he's in this tournament as a 17-year-old," said McIlroy on Monday. "It's pretty incredible, really. 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.

So, yeah, I think it's great. It's great for the game of golf, it makes it a little more exciting,” he added. "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."

And while McIlroy may start as the favorite in his clash with Byrd, he is wary of the good form shown by last month's Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner.

"I think he's won two tournaments in his last 10 starts, so he's obviously playing pretty good," continued McIlroy. "I watched a bit of golf in Hawaii, at the start of the year and he played very well. Obviously he has had a good run, but you're never going to get easy matches this week.

"I'm sure he'll be a really tough opponent,” he added. “And I'll have to play my best or somewhere near my best to try to beat him."