x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

'Some kind of player'

McIlroy draws praise from Mickelson after the youngest winner on PGA Tour in 14 years is back in top 10 with a title win in Charlotte

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after beating Phil Mickelson to win the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte.
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after beating Phil Mickelson to win the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte.

Phil Mickelson hailed Rory McIlroy as "some kind of player" after watching the 20-year-old become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods in 1996. McIlroy found some blistering form to go 16 under par at the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte at the weekend, setting a course record of 62 and winning by four shots from Mickelson, the 2010 Masters champion.

"I've got to congratulate Rory on an incredible round," Mickelson told Sky Sports. "He played some incredible golf. He's an amazing talent. He knew he was going to come out here and win because he's won all over the world. To win at 20 is incredible. He's some kind of player." McIlroy is back in the world's top 10, at No 9, while Mickelson can topple Tiger Woods at the top of the rankings this week. By finishing runner-up to the Northern Irishman, Mickelson goes into the Players Championship on Thursday knowing that if he wins and Woods is outside the top five he will be No 1 for the first time in his career.

McIlroy, who turned 21 today, had missed the cut in his last two events in the US, including the Masters at Augusta following rounds of 74 and 77. And he was not in a strong position on Friday night at one over par before a stunning turnaround, completing the weekend at 16 under par. "I suppose I just got in the zone," he said. "I didn't realise I was going eight, nine, 10 under par. I just knew I'd got my nose in front, I was just trying to stay there. Ever since I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be a professional golfer and you know it's been a crazy ride to this point. I'm just delighted to get here and get my first win of the year and to do it on a golf course like this is an amazing feeling."

McIlroy now moves on to the Players Championship in Florida and said: "I'm going to have a bit of a party [tonight] down in Sawgrass." Meanwhile, Alvaro Quiros is on course for a Ryder Cup debut in October. Victory in his home Spanish Open in Seville on Sunday erased the memory of again missing the cut in the Masters four weeks ago - and proved there is far more to him than big hitting. Beating England's James Morrison in a play-off lifted Quiros from 17th to seventh in the Cup race.

Colin Montgomerie, the captain of Europe, has been singing the 27-year-old's praises for months and would love to see him shine at The Players Championship. Elsewhere, Matteo Manassero, the player tipped to be Europe's next golfing great, officially became a professional yesterday two weeks after his 17th birthday and two days before he plays his home Italian Open. The leading amateur at the British Open last July and at the Masters, Manassero has become a stablemate of Woods by joining the International Management Group. The youngest player ever to win the British Amateur title, he said: "I feel ready to turn pro and am happy to play my first event." * PA