Golf: I WANT TO PROVE I CAN CUT IT; McIlroy Targets British Masters & Irish Open

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Byline: By NORMAN DABELL

NORTHERN IRELAND'S Rory McIlroy will be mixing it with the great and the good this week, when the 16-year-old golfer makes his bow at the British Masters today.

McIlroy, a plus-four handicapper from Holywood, will be amongst a field at Forest of Arden that includes seven of Europe's victorious 2004 Ryder Cup team.

The Irish amateur will undoubtedly be the focus of attention however, as golf fans watch to see if he can emulate the fame found by the likes of Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia in previous competitions.

McIlroy is even younger than those two were when they acquitted themselves admirably as teenagers, fighting it out with the pros in European Tour events.

Rose, of course, finished in fourth place competing in the 1998 British Open.

The young Northern Irishman has been given glowing accolades since winning the Irish Boys and Irish Youths trophies and becoming the youngest winner of the West of Ireland Championship at the tender age of 15.

While McIlroy's main goal is to make the Walker Cup team against America, he has a chance to make real splash this week and in his next event, the Irish Open.

Dungannon's Darren Clarke won the 'West of Ireland' as a young man also, before embarking on his European Tour career.

Speaking at Forest Of Arden this week, Clarke recognises McIlroy's obvious potential.

"Rory is an unbelievable talent," said Clarke. "He has been up there for the last three years.

"I think the experience he is going to pick up this week and next, will help him. …