Young guns McIlroy, Ishikawa need that major step
Tokyo: With their stunning victories in the US and Japan at the weekend, young guns Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa served notice a new guard may be emerging to dominate golf over the next decade.
However, for all their rich talent and the seemingly limitless potential which has been displayed by the duo over the last few years, a measure of circumspection needs to be taken.
While the early odds suggest Briton McIlroy, just turned 21, and Japanese Ishikawa, 18, are likely to take over the mantle from the `Big Four` of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, both players will need to deliver in the majors if they are to justify that status.
That might sound harsh for two golfers who literally have the breadth of their professional careers in front of them but there have been several examples in recent years of young guns billed as the "next Tiger Woods" who are yet to deliver.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Australians Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott, plus American Anthony Kim, have all been touted as heirs-apparent to the older guard of Woods and company but none of that quartet has yet broken through in a grand slam event.
"It`s not easy," world number one and 14-times major champion Woods told reporters at the TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday while preparing for this week`s Players Championship.
"Winning major championships is not easy. The whole idea is to keep improving, keep becoming more efficient. You don`t have to win right now.”
"Just make sure you keep improving each and every year, and that`s one of the things that I think all the great players that ever played have done, they kept improving."
Yet it was Woods himself who just over a year ago predicted that McIlroy, then aged 19, was capable of inheriting his crown as world number one.
"The guy`s a talent," Woods said at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami. "We can all see it, the way he hits the golf ball, the way he putts, the way he can chip, get up and down.