McIlroy will define generation - Dawson
World number one Rory McIlroy will become the golfer of his generation in much the same way as Tiger Woods did, according to R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
The Northern Irishman, 23 in a fortnight, already has one major title to his name after winning last year's US Open, having previously had a successful amateur career.
Dawson said: "It is quite indicative to me as to who the star players are... 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. Every generation has its stars, and Rory is going to be this one, I'm sure."
With Woods struggling to regain his dominance of a couple of years ago, a new breed of younger golfers are hoping to take over his mantle and McIlroy heads the queue.
His 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."
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.