ST ANDREWS // Rory McIlroy was the last outstanding golfing teenager to explode onto the world stage, by capturing the Dubai Desert Classic, to follow Spain's Sergio Garcia to precocious fame and fortune A fascinating battle is under way to become the next boy wonder and the Far Eastern duo of Ryo Ishikawa and Seung-yul Noh are predicted to prevail over the Italian Matteo Manassero in a race to break into the world's top 10.
Manassero, 17, who won the cherished Silver Medal as leading amateur at last year's British Open, has not yet done enough in the professional ranks to merit a place in this year's line-up, but Ishikawa and Noh are all systems go to do Asia proud. Ishikawa, 18, is already close to claiming a position in the world's top 50 and can do that with a solid performance on his first visit to the Old Course, while Noh travelled to the east coast of Scotland wearing the label as leader of the Asian Tour's order of merit.
Noh, 19, is unlike most teenagers in that he welcomes constant parental intrusion. His father Gu-huieun is also his caddie and is constantly barking out instructions. "When I take a shot, I have somebody to discuss it with," said the South Korean youngster who also has his mother and sister accompanying him at St Andrews. "Psychologically, it is very comforting. It lets me play a better shot. When you are on tour, you are alone most of the time but I am always with my father."
Noh, who finished in a tie for 40th place in the US Open, one stroke behind Ishikawa, takes inspiration from his compatriot YE Yang, who beat Tiger Woods in the play-off for last year's US PGA Championship. "Yang told me that we have to aim for wins in regular events and treat the majors as another regular event," said Noh. "He was emphasising the need to be comfortable and it made sense to me." Ishikawa, who was drawn with major champions Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington on the first two days, is relishing his chance to steal some more of the Open limelight after playing with Woods on his debut 12 months ago.
"I am going to play more aggressively than I did in the US Open," he said. "I want to play all four days here" McIlroy, 21, sees bright futures for both prospects. "I've played a lot with Ryo," said McIlroy. "Considering how young he is, he is very impressive. "Getting into these events will stand them both in good stead." firstname.lastname@example.org