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Player: 'McIlroy is world's best young golfer'

From Justin Armsden, CNN
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McIlroy and Player on new course
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gary Player tells CNN that 20-year-old Rory McIlroy "has the world at his feet"
  • McIlroy raised eyebrows with decision last year to commit to the rival U.S. Tour
  • McIlroy said he already feels at home on the other side of the Atlantic

(CNN) -- Golf legend Gary Player has told CNN that 20-year-old Rory McIlroy "has the world at his feet" after the Northern Ireland ace claimed his seventh top-10 finish from eight stroke play events with a third-place finish in Abu Dhabi.

"I believe he is the best young player in the world today. Everything is just going right for him and if he works hard he has got the world at his feet," Player told CNN's Living Golf in an exclusive sit-down interview with McIlroy.

World number 11 McIlroy finished third at the U.S. PGA Championship in Augusta in 2009 but has only one career title to his name -- the Dubai Desert Classic -- despite a number of second-place finishes.

McIlroy then raised eyebrows, after achieving his breakthrough win in the 2009 European Tour, by then committing to play on the rival U.S. Tour for 2010.

However, Player -- who was in Abu Dhabi to open a new course of his own design -- said McIlroy's versatility would stand him in good stead for the future and ultimately lead to success in America.

I believe [Rory McIlroy] is the best young player in the world today
--Gary Player
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"The good thing about Rory going to the United States is that he's learnt his golf in Europe, in Ireland where the wind blows and you have to play in rain. A lot of young players haven't had that experience," he said.

South African-born Player, 74, started his stint in the U.S. in the late 1950's competing for titles against the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Despite often receiving verbal and physical abuse as a reaction to South Africa's apartheid policy, the one dubbed the "Black Knight" went on to complete a career grand slam by the age of 29.

McIlroy will also face challenges to win titles, but Player was confident that with the help of father--figure and manager Chubby Chandler, McIlroy would also prove competitive.

Despite the prospect of relocating McIlroy said he already feels at home on the other side of the Atlantic: "I love it over in the States, it's one of the main reasons I wanted to take my card up over there. I love the courses, I love the climate and the people; I feel really comfortable over there."