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McIlroy charisma shines through

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy's charisma has won him a host of American fans

By Russell Fuller in Arizona

Even though his hunt for an elusive first PGA Tour title continues, Paul Casey can console himself with a rise of 10 places in the world rankings after finishing as the runner-up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship after another sweltering day in the desert.

At number 13 in the world, Casey will be just one spot behind his career-high ranking, and after his win in Abu Dhabi in January, he has plenty of momentum to take into the first major of the season at Augusta in April.

Geoff Ogilvy was a hugely deserving winner after recording 10 birdies and an eagle in just 33 holes.

Even a diplomat would admit that interest in the final here in the United States was minimal, as it has never been easy convincing some Americans that there is life outside the PGA Tour.

Ross Fisher ('Ross who?' asked one commentator earlier in the week) may have sent the hearts of TV executives sinking faster than the Dow Jones, but he played some magnificent golf as he finished fourth on his debut in this event.

The 28-year-old, who not too long ago was filling up buckets of balls for Tiger Woods at the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, says he feels quite old compared to the likes of Rory McIlroy and Anthony Kim.

But Fisher is embarking on only his fourth year on tour, and who knows what he could have achieved here if his planned week of preparation hadn't been compromised by heavy snow and a Valentine's Day break with his wife.

Once Tiger had left - to spend yet more time with his family - Rory McIlroy became the star of the show.


The Americans love McIlroy. They love his youth, they love his attitude, and they even seem to love his curly shoulder-length hair.

One fan thought his resemblance to Ronald McDonald was so strong that he asked him for a quarter-pounder with cheese midway through his third round match.

The 19-year-old from Northern Ireland will return to 16th in the world rankings after reaching the quarter-finals here, and Ernie Els suggested earlier in the week that he will become the next world number one.

McIlroy moves to Florida now to play the Honda Classic from 5 March and then the second World Championship event of the season at Doral from 12 March. He needs to hole a few more putts, and if he can, his game will stand comparison with the very best.

Talking of which, Tiger is likely to play the second event of his comeback at Doral.

Els, who has not been the same player since reconstructive surgery on his left knee following a sailing accident in 2005, believes Tiger's unlikely to remain the force he was.

That may be insightful, or it may be wishful thinking, as 32 holes of match play golf is insufficient evidence.

The sport needs Tiger to return to his best, but it also needs a genuine rivalry. And if that is not to be with Els, Phil Mickelson or Sergio Garcia, then McIlroy, Kim and Camilo Villegas would love to put their names forward.

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see also
Match Play results
26 Feb 09 |  Golf
Tiger back in the groove
26 Feb 09 |  Golf
All eyes on Tiger
24 Feb 09 |  Golf

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