Tiger and the Young Guns not lost on McIlroy

Rory McIlroy’s defence of his Emirates Australian Open title and the most outstanding year of his career came to a close with a birdie on the final hole at The Australian Golf Club on Sunday.

McIlroy admitted after round one that he was only thinking about the chance to reach the career Grand Slam at The Masters at Augusta next April ‘every day’, but will now take time off on reflect on a remarkable season that netted two major championships, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Volvo PGA Championship, another Ryder Cup victory with Europe and of course, regaining the No.1 ranking.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy (Credit: Anthony Powter)

As 21-year old Jordan Spieth was pulling away from the field in a record-setting round on his way to victory, the ‘grizzled veteran’ that he is at 25 spoke of the younger brigade that were queuing up to make their mark over the next few years.

“The game’s in good hands, there’s a lot of good young players. Jordan is obviously one of them, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler obviously, Jason Day – one of your own – he’s still only 26, 27.” McIlroy said.

“The game’s in a good place with a lot of good young players that can hopefully take the game forward in the next few years.”

His final round playing partner, 16-year old Australian amateur Ryan Ruffels, also came in for glowing praise from the world number one.

“Very impressed, He’s a great ball striker for 16-years-old, he hits the ball a long way which you need nowadays and he’s got a great temperament. This was only his fifth professional event and it can only bode well for him in the future to get these opportunities to play with the pros.”

The youngsters might be making some noise but McIlroy gave indication that he expects Tiger Woods, who returns to action this week against an 18-man field that includes Spieth, Matsuyama and Day as host of the Hero World Challenge in Florida, to once again contend for the top spot in 2015.

“I played golf with him four weeks ago on his first day back on the golf course since the PGA Championship and he looked really good to me. What I saw of him that day in Florida was that he’s healthy and swinging the club a lot better.”

“Golf’s just better whenever he’s around and he’s playing and he’s healthy.”