Youngster moves in on world number 1

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The world’s top three golfers Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods have dominated the build-up to this week’s Dubai Desert Classic and will tee off together in the first two rounds today and Friday.

But nobody would be that surprised if a 21-year-old beats them all. He is even ahead of Worksop superstar Westwood in the betting.

No prizes for guessing Rory McIlroy is the player - not only because of what he has done lately, but also because of what he has done at the Emirates Club in the past. Two years ago McIlroy had what surprisingly remains his only European Tour victory at the venue and last year he was the among the first-round leaders before slipping back to sixth.

Now the Northern Ireland youngster returns after finishes in his last five events of fifth, sixth, fifth, fourth and then second to Kaymer in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago. A distant second it has to be said. Kaymer won by eight and for the second week running now has a chance to take the world number 1 spot off Westwood. But by the time they and Woods begin locking horns early starter McIlroy hopes to have signalled his intentions.

He did not expect to play as well as he did at the commencement of the European Tour’s four-week Middle East swing after taking a long winter break.

“If you’d have seen me in Dubai you wouldn’t have said I’d make the cut,” he said. “I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. I’m hitting it a lot better than I was at the end of the year. That’s a positive.”