Dawson backs McIlroy for Open win
A Rory McIlroy victory in the Open this summer would "raise the roof" at Sandwich, Royal and Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson claimed.
"I think it would be staggeringly popular," said Dawson, who was at the Masters two weeks ago when the 21-year-old crashed to an 80 after taking a four-shot lead into the final round. "He's already a popular figure, he's young, everyone wants him to do well and I think the roof would come off the stands if he won the Open.
"I think the hearts of all golf fans went out to him at Augusta and it was wonderful that he put up such a good show in Malaysia a week later."
The Northern Irishman was one behind with one to play in Kuala Lumpur, but took six on the par-five closing hole to drop to third, two strokes behind 17-year-old winner Matteo Manassero.
"Let's hope he has learnt from the Masters and the best way he can come back is to win a major," Dawson added. "It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he does - what a talent - but equally it wouldn't surprise me if quite a number of others won either."
McIlroy has already made his mark in the Open. When he was 18 he was in third place after one round of his debut at Carnoustie and finished as leading amateur.
Then last July he equalled the major championship record with his opening 63 at St Andrews, collapsed to an 80 the following day, then came back to be joint third.
Italian Manassero was the leading amateur himself at Turnberry two years ago - he came a spectacular 13th - and on Tuesday, his 18th birthday, finds himself ranked 33rd in the world.
"Winning two Tour events before turning 18 is astonishing," Dawson said during a visit to Royal St George's, where crowds in excess of 180,000 are expected for the Open from July 14-17.
"Golf is changing and good on it. It's an exciting time for British and European golf - Tiger Woods is not as dominant as he was and other players who have been at the top are well into their thirties or beyond. It's only natural that younger players will come through and it's nice to see how many are emerging from countries all over the world."