MARANA // British teenager Rory McIlroy went out of the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship on Saturday amid ringing endorsements from two major winners. Australian Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion who beat McIlroy 2&1 in a high-quality quarter-final, said the Northern Irishman was the best young player he had seen.
And the South African Ernie Els, a triple major winner, also tipped him as a future world No 1. "He is by far the best young player I've ever played with," Ogilvy said after sealing victory against the 19-year-old McIlroy on the 17th green. "He hits the ball well, chips and putts well and his demeanour is fantastic. All the hype [about him] is fair because he's the real deal." The mop-haired McIlroy won his maiden European Tour title at this month's Dubai Desert Classic, dominating a world-class field from start to finish to cement his place among the game's elite.
"The win in Dubai was big for him," said Els, who was beaten 2&1 by the American Stewart Cink at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Saturday. "He got that little monkey off his back because he's been in contention quite a few times in the last six months. So he's comfortable now and he's hungry. "He's going to be a major factor in world golf," added the twice US Open champion. "I think you're probably looking at the next No 1 in the world with him. He's got all the tools."
McIlroy, who has swiftly risen to No 17 in the world, said: "I don't want to say I always expected to get to this point but I always hoped I would. But I am surprised how quickly I've done it. In the world rankings one win can jump you up quite a few spots. "I've just got to keep going with it, keep playing and try to get a few more wins. If you can do that the rankings and everything else will take care of itself."
Ogilvy was last night playing his near neighbour, Briton Paul Casey, in the Match Play final. The pair live just five miles apart in Scottsdale, Arizona. * With agencies