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‘Special’ Rory McIlroy soaks up plaudits

The accolades just keep coming for Rory McIlroy. Last night he was named as the European Tour’s Golfer of the Month for January after coming through to win his first professional tournament, the Dubai Desert Classic, last month.

He led England’s Justin Rose by six shots with nine holes to play, but in the end had to hold his nerve to play a tricky bunker shot on the 18th and hole from three feet to win by just a single shot.

And it was the composure he showed under extreme pressure which persuaded the committee to unanimously choose the Ulster teenager.

Panel Member and golf writer Bill Elliott said: "It was not so much the winning but the manner in which Rory won.

“The way he played that last shot in Dubai confirmed the emergence of a very special talent."

McIlroy is currently second behind Spain's Sergio Garcia on the money list and said: "It was a huge thrill to win my first European Tour title against such a high quality field and in the place where The Race to Dubai will be decided in 10 months' time.

"Obviously, I'd love to be back at the end of the season competing for the Dubai World Championship and the number one spot.

“The win has given me a lot of confidence and I'll be looking to use that to continue to improve for the rest of the year."

The award makes it a hat-trick of successes for Ulster players in the past year Both Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke were players of the month after winning twice on the European Tour last season.

McIlroy was the unanimous recipient of the award when up against other Tour winning contenders including Denmark’s Anders Hansen (Joburg Open), England’s Paul Casey (Abu Dhabi Golf Championship) and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros (Qatar Masters).

The is an outside chance that McIlroy could face Tiger Woods in the Accenture World Match Play in Arizona at the end of the month.

As he didn’t play last week he slipped a place in the world ranking to 16th, but that puts him on course to play Woods in the third round – if the world number one decides to play, that is.

Woods will be back in action sooner than later after confirming last week that he is hitting balls “full bore” in practice.

As defending champion, the thought of Arizona will be tempting, but he hasn’t yet confirmed his entry.

In any case McIlroy won’t play until the matchplay event and may very well slip outside the top 16 by the time it starts, which would put him into a separate section of the draw, meaning he would have to reach the semi-finals to play his idol.

He has, though, said he has been sending text messages to Mark O’Meara about the practice round he will play with Woods at the Masters in April.

The matchplay draw is based completely on the world rankings and also depends on no-one pulling out of the event.

Provisional draw (seeded positions in brackets): (1) Tiger Woods v (64) Brendan Jones; (32) Tim Clark v (33) Retief Goosen; (16) Rory McIlroy v (49) Louis Oosthuizen; (17) Mike Weir v (48) Hunter Mahan; (8) Geoff Ogilvy v (57) Kevin Sutherland; (25) Trevor Immelman v (40) Shingo Katayama; (9) Camilo Villegas v (56) Rod Pampling; (24) Miguel Angel Jimenez v (41) Rory Sabbatini (4) Vijay Singh v (61) Soren Kjeldsen; (29) Ben Curtis v (36) Luke Donald; (13) Ernie Els v (52) Soren Hansen; (20) Steve Stricker v (45) Dustin Johnson; (5) Phil Mickelson v (60) Angel Cabrera; (28) Zach Johnson v (37) Graeme McDowell; (12) Lee Westwood v (53) Prayad Marksaeng; (21) Stewart Cink v (44) Richard Sterne

(2) Sergio Garcia v (63) Charl Schwartzel; (31) Ian Poulter v (34) Jeev Milkha Singh; (15) Justin Rose v (50) Boo Weekley; (18) Adam Scott v (47) Sean O'Hair; (7) Robert Karlsson v (58) Peter Hanson; (26) Alvaro Quiros v (39) Stephen Ames; (10) Kenny Perry v (55) Matthew Goggin; (23) Paul Casey v (42) Aaron Baddeley (3) Padraig Harrington v (62) Pat Perez; (30) Robert Allenby v (35) Ross Fisher; (14) Jim Furyk v (51) Anders Hansen; (19) Martin Kaymer v (46) Stuart Appleby; (6) Henrik Stenson v (59) Davis Love; (27) Justin Leonard v (38) Andres Romero; (11) Anthony Kim v (54) Lin Wen-tang; (22) KJ Choi v (43) Oliver Wilson.

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