Boy in awe has grown up

Ten years ago Rory McIlroy was a boy in awe at the World Match play championship. Today he’ll be a subject of awe.

Ten years ago Rory McIlroy was no more than the slip of a boy in awe watching the game’s big guns as they battled it out at the World Match play championship.
Today the 20-old Nothern Ireland prodigy will himself be a subject of awe when he tees off in the new Volvo World Match Play championship in Spain against reigning Masters Champion Angel Cabrera.
When Colin Montgomerie beat Mark O’Meara in the 1999 final, McIlroy was there in the crowd and he was back two years later to see Ian Woosnam defeat Padraig Harrington.
“I remember running around Wentworth twice a day. I’ve still got the ball given to me by O’Meara and it’s a pretty cool feeling to be able to play in the event now,” said McIlroy, who has made such giant strides in the last decade that he is the sixth seed and Cabrera the 11th in the elite 11-man field.
The surroundings are very different, however. The famous West Course was the tournament’s home from 1964 to 2007, but the tournament lost its sponsor and it was not played last year and now it has a new sponsor and is being staged at the three-year-old Finca Cortesin course in Marbella.
The format has changed too. Instead of straight knock-out there is a group stage – McIlroy may also have to beat Henrik Stenson and Simon Dyson to reach Saturday’s 36-hole semi-finals – and all the initial games will be played over the full 18 holes.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” added McIlroy, who could go back to the top of the European money list by capturing the first prize – £675,925 in cash terms, although only £488,168 will countr for Order of Merit purposes due to the limited field.
“I don’t know if it’s by coincidence (it is because the world rankings determined it) that the top four on the Race to Dubai have avoided each other in the group stages, but it will be great.
“Hopefully a couple of us get to the semi-finals, but it’s going to be very difficult because there are no easy matches here.
“I think the format works really, really well, especially the way you’re going to see every match go to the 18th no matter what happens.
“Angel has won The Masters this year, Henrik has done very well in the past in match play and Simon is in the best form of his life.
“In match play it’s all go from the first and try to get up as much as possible.
“If I don’t win the money list I’ll be disappointed. I desperately want to win.”