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Teen in Marana event got early start

Citizen Staff Writer



Nineteen-year-old Rory McIlroy, the Accenture Match Play Championship’s youngest competitor, is handling the spotlight like a veteran.

No wonder. He had a golf club in his hand not long after a rattle. The game claimed him before he knew any better.

“I started playing at the age of 2,” said the Northern Ireland wunderkind, winner three weeks ago of the Dubai Desert Classic. “We’re playing tournaments by the time we’re 8 or 9.”

If you’re good, the game will take care of you.

“You play amateur golf and you’re traveling all over the world to play,” said McIlroy, who will meet Louis Oosthuizen in first-round play Wednesday at Marana.

Technology has weaned worldwide golfers at young ages, McIlroy said.

“You don’t have to be a big guy to be able to compete with the bigger guys,” he said.

McIlroy will not be at a disadvantage anymore than the oldest player in Marana, Kenny Perry, 49.

“All the amateur play growing up was match play,” McIlroy said. “My game suits me (in match play) because I make quite a lot of birdies.”

McIlroy claims to have the best of both worlds. He didn’t miss out by having to grow up faster than normal. One of the reasons is that his ego didn’t rise with the sky-high iron shots he’s fond of, he said.

“Obviously, when I’m on tour you’re hanging around people who are a lot older than you and you have to grow up faster,” he said.

“But when I get home from that, maybe I take two or three weeks off and try to chill out with my friends and be a normal teenager again.

“My mom and dad keep me well grounded as well.”

The pros are happy to give advice to the younger generation, and McIlroy takes it all to heart.

“I got a nice letter from Gary Player after I won Dubai,” he said. “He said, ‘The more you practice, the luckier you get.’ So that’s a pretty good piece of advice.”

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