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Rory McIlroy looking to break in to the PGA Tour

Irish golf sensation Rory McIlroy is set to turn his sights on the United States in the next few weeks although he insists he will stay true to his European roots. The 19-year-old from Hollywood, Northern Ireland led wire to wire to lift the Dubai Desert Classic title on Sunday, his maiden victory in a career that many believe is destined for stardom.

Next up are the two World Golf Championship events - the Match Play Championship in Arizona in late February and the CA Championship in Florida in mid-March - as well as the Honda Classic and the Houston Open before heading for his debut tilt at the Masters in early April. He will enter Augusta having broken into the world top 20 in just his second full year as a pro and with expectations sky high that he can mix it with the best.

The young Ulsterman though says that he has no immediate intentions of following many who have gone before him in relocating to the United States. "I think the world is getting so small that a lot of guys manage easily to play a little bit on both tours and that’s what I would like to do, sort of juggle the time in between," he said after his breakthrough in Dubai.

"Obviously we have The Race to Dubai which is huge. It’s going to be great for golf and obviously the majors and World Golf Championships are in the States. "So you just have to weigh it up and try and find the right balance to play the events that you like to play in Europe and then play the ones you need to in the States." Much was made in Dubai of comments from US veteran Mark O’Meara who said that if anything McIlroy was better at 19 years old than Tiger Woods was at the same age.

His comments carried weight as he played both opening rounds alongside the Ulsterman and he is widely known as being one of Woods’ closest friends and confidants on the tour. The former British Open and Masters champion said that McIlroy was ahead in terms of technique.

"Certainly Tiger has developed his game and swing over the years and made modifications to be able to hit the ball pin-high, but Rory is already doing that and he’s 19 so he’s already a step ahead," explained O’Meara. "There’s no reason why he can’t win a lot of major championships. He’s got it." The flattering comparisons have left the modest McIlroy stunned but he admits that the win in Dubai has done wonders for his confidence and led him to set his sights higher over the next few years.

"Success only makes you more motivated to try and do better," he said. "I’ve realised that I’ve become a very good player and I’ve got a lot of years to progress still and I just want to keep trying to practice harder and improve."

Also in his sights is a Ryder Cup debut for Europe against the United States in Wales next year and he will leave Dubai knowing that he has already caught he eye of newly-appointed captain Colin Montgomerie.


February 3, 2009

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