As world No. 1 Rory McIlroy stood atop Hong Kong’s smog-shrouded highest peak, former European and PGA No.1s Padraig Harrington and Matt Kuchar looked on in awe.
McIlroy, as Hong Kong Open defending champion, was joined by 2006 European No. 1 Harrington and 2010 PGA Tour No.1 Kuchar along with Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and YE Yang in a promo for the event at the Pearl of the Peak restaurant at Victoria Peak.
Organisers of this week’s event had set up an artificial tee and with McIlroy and his colleagues posing for shots before hitting plastic coloured golf balls out in the direction of Hong Kong Harbour over 550 metres below.
Harrington continues his ‘Movember’ unshaven look ahead of the event he captured in 2004 but then there was no disguising his continuing delight for McIlroy: “It was great for Rory to achieve the goals of majors and order of merit at such a young age because you can only believe he is only going to go and do it again and again,” said Harrington.
“Rory is performing and continuing to deliver, and winning two Majors and now the Order of Merit in both the States and Europe shows that.
“He used to surprise us when he first turned pro but I don’t thinkanything Rory does surprises us anymore.
“And the great thing about Rory is that with this latest achievement in winning the Race to Dubai, his young feet are still planted firmly on the ground.
“He really is a very level-headed, nice, and I won’t say kid, but a great young man. He’s done a really good job and he’s to be congratulated in the manner he continues to conduct himself.”
And while Harrington can see McIlroy particularly leading the PGA Tour into a new era post-Tiger Woods, he sees McIlroy becoming a new motivation for all those behind him on the rankings.
“There is no doubt Rory is going to lift the standard of golf around the globe,” said Harrington. “You have got to have someone to fire at if you are going to improve and Rory’s there, and he’s going to be an even bigger role model for younger players.
“There is going to be these 12, 13 and 14-year-olds playing golf who are going to be inspired by what Rory is achieving.”
Kuchar captured the PGA Tour money list in 2010 and while the 34-year old is no stranger to competing around the globe, this week is his first visit to Hong Kong.
“It’s just amazing what Rory has achieved,” said Kuchar. “I’ve never tried to play both Tours so what Luke (Donald) managed last year and now Rory to follow just a year later seems really difficult.
“All I can gauge is that you must limit yourself trying to play both tours and that you are kind of at adisadvantage by sheer numbers, so to win both money list tours is anamazing feat.”
McIlroy has been named the PGA of America’s Player of the Year and winner of its Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average of the season.
The PGA Tour has its own Player of the Year Trophy — to be decided on November 30 — but McIlRoy is hot favourite to win it as well. He is nominated alongside Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker and Woods.
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