FROM THE SKY SPORTS.COM WEBSITE
R and A chief executive Peter Dawson believes world No.1 Rory McIlroy can go on to become the golfer of his generation in much the same way as Tiger Woods did.The 22-year-old already has one major title to his name after winning last year's US Open, having previously had a successful amateur career.
And with Woods struggling to regain his dominance of a couple of years ago, McIlroy heads the queue of young golfers hoping to take over his mantle.
The Northern Irishman's rise to the top of the rankings is just another indicator of his talent and Dawson has watched his progress with admiration.
"It's very gratifying to see someone we've seen from his amateur days and played in a lot of events come through like this," he said.
"It's a wonderful time for British golf and European golf, having so many players from these islands and the continent of Europe doing so well.
"It is quite indicative to me as to who the star players are; the star players are always the ones where the TV companies are very interested in what tee times they're going to get at the Open.
"Rory and Tiger are the two that they are most interested in. So you're really seeing the old guard in Tiger, he's only mid-30s, isn't he, and the young Rory.
Jim McArthur, chairman of the R&A's Championship Committee, echoed Dawson's endorsement of McIlroy.
"Rory certainly relates to the younger person, the younger golfer. I think he has certainly been a good role model for them," he said.
"Obviously reaching No.1 he gets even more prominence as far as the golfing public is concerned and I think that can only be good for the game going forward."
The focus on Irish golf has grown in recent years, starting with Padraig Harrington's victories in two Opens and the US PGA, and being followed up by Graeme McDowell's success at the US Open, then McIlroy's breakthrough major and finally, last year, Darren Clarke's long-awaited Open triumph at Royal St George's.
There has been a growing call for the Open to return to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which hosted the championship for the only time in 1951.
Dawson, announcing the course changes for this summer's event at Royal Lytham and St Annes and also the lifting of the mobile phone ban for spectators, admitted they had looked at taking the championship back across the Irish Sea.
"I and some of the people in the Championship department have been over having a look at Royal Portrush, a magnificent golf course," he added.
"It is very interesting they have the Irish Open there this year and have had some very strong ticket sales, so I hear, and we will have a look to see how that goes.
"We're a long way from any announcement that the Open is going back to Portrush but we have had a look at it.
"It's an interesting venue from all sorts of points of view but there are certain aspects of the golf course which would be very difficult for big crowds."