Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Rory McIlroy: Genuine Open Contender



Rory McIlroy can win The Open Championship at Turnberry this weekend.

The bushy-haired 20-year old from Northern Ireland is playing only his second Open, and first as a professional. But he is such a talent that he is capable of pulling off the biggest win in a major championship since the 21-year old Tiger Woods ran off with The U.S. Masters in 1997.

Rory’s youth should not hamper his chances. In fact it could encourage him. Only Tiger himself — who only a lunatic would argue is not the greatest golfer who ever lived — has a comparable early career record.  Tiger had just turned pro when he won the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational as a 20 year-old, but McIlroy was still a teenager when he secured his first victory as a professional: the high profile Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.

Youthful prodigies are rare in golf. The Open’s two-time defending champion Padraig Harrington did not even turn pro until he was 24. But if you watch Rory play it immediately becomes apparent why he has had so much success.

I was lucky enough to arrive at Wentworth Golf Club in south west London a few minutes before Rory was due to begin his 3rd round at the BMW PGA Championship.