Not since the arrival of Sergio Garcia a decade ago has a young European golfer made such a dramatic and immediate impact on the world of professional golf. Less than two years after leaving the amateur game, Rory McIlroy has won on the European tour (the Dubai Desert Classic in February), tied for 20th in his first Masters (with a final-nine 31), and has performed consistently well enough to be ranked among the world's top-20 players.
Not that anyone is surprised, really. The young Ulsterman -- he turned 20 in May -- has been a star at every level of the game. At 16 he was Ireland's Amateur champion. A year later he had added the European Amateur title. And before he turned pro he was the No. 1 amateur in the world.
The most striking aspect of young McIlroy is not his list of victories or achievements, however. It's the rhythm of his swing and the ease with which he hits the ball. "Rory's swing does have a wonderful flow to it, always has," says Michael Bannon, head professional at Bangor Golf Club in Northern Ireland and McIlroy's only teacher. "You can tell how comfortable he is by the speed at which he plays. All he needs is a couple of looks at the target before he hits."
Such instinctiveness is the result of hard work as well as inborn talent. "We've always focused on Rory's posture, alignment and ball position," says Bannon. "They are where we want them, but we keep a constant eye on them. If he's been playing in windy conditions, he sometimes lets the ball creep back in his stance. He also has a tendency to narrow his stance a wee bit too much for the short irons.
I like the width to stay constant so he can stand into his right leg on the backswing."
How good is Rory's move? Says Geoff Ogilvy: "He might have the best swing out here."