European captain Colin Montgomerie reckons Dubai champion Rory McIlroy is a potential "superstar" who can lead a new generation of young guns to Ryder Cup glory.
The Scot watched the teen sensation shake a monkey off his back to close with a 70 and grab his maiden win with a nail-biting, wire-to-wire victory in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Monty beamed: “I think we have a superstar here in the making. Along with Alvaro Quiros and Martin Kaymer we have some fantastic talent coming through in Europe. Rory right now is at the head of that group.”
McIlroy finished a shot clear on Justin Rose on 19 under par and is now ranked an incredible 16th in the world and Europe's sixth best player behind the likes of Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington.
And after watching the Ulster teenager, 19, survive a back nine wobble to leave 15 of the world’s top 50 and eight of last year’s defeated European Ryder Cup team in his exhaust fumes, Montgomerie is looking to the Ryder Cup with added confidence.
Unconcerned about McIlroy’s age, Monty added: “I don't mind if he is showing any of this form. He is doing fantastically well at 19 years old. Incredible.”
Two ahead of South African Louis Oosthuizen with a round to play, McIlroy was six ahead with six to play and had the tournament record 22 under par in his sights when he got to that mark with four holes to play.
But he bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th to see his lead cut to a single shot over Rose before closing out his maiden win with a brilliant par save from the back bunker at the 18th.
Relieved and delighted, McIlroy said: “It was a bit of a roller coaster to say the least. Justin battled well all the way down the back nine but I dug in there deep and that was one of the best up and downs of my life on the 18th to win. I am just thrilled."
Twenty years after Eamonn Darcy won the first Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy's name was etched on the huge coffee pot trophy alongside Majors winners like Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Mark O’Meara and Seve Ballesteros.
He said: "It is just absolutely unbelievable. To be able to put my name on the list of winners with guys like that as my first win is very, very special.
"Even the field that I have been able to beat this week: Sergio (Garcia), Henrik (Stenson), Justin (Rose), Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer. The list goes on and just to be able to compete with these guys and be able to come out on top is just one of the best feelings in the world."
Two ahead starting the final round, McIlroy started with three consecutive birdies to go six clear of Australia’s Richard Green.
He suffered a temporary wobble when he double bogeyed the fifth hole and bogeyed the eighth - three putting each time - to see his advantage shrink to two shots.
The teen star then reeled off five consecutive birdies from the ninth to surge ahead again but wobbled again.
Rose eagled the par five 13th and after McIlroy bogeyed the 15th and 16th, he birdied the 17th to a bogey from McIlroy to trail by just one shot heading to the par five 18th.
Rose laid up into the long rough short of the lake but McIlroy then overshot the green with his third and left himself a tricky, downhill bunker shot.
But he fulfilled his destiny when he splashed out to three feet and watched as Rose missed a 12 foot birdie putt to tie and force play-off at worst.
McIlroy gathered himself and rolled in his par putt to win the 20th Dubai Desert Classic and confessed that blowing a tournament he had led by six shots at one stage would have been tough to take.
After earning €323,514 and move up to second in the Race to Dubai standings behind Sergio Garcia, McIlroy said: “That was a rollercoaster. You see guys on television coming down the stretch with a four or five-shot lead and you think it is easy. It isn’t.
"If I had not won today, having a six-shot lead, it would have been pretty hard to take. It would have been hard to come back from that.”
McIlroy was haunted by the demons of last year’s Swiss Open, when he needed a par at the last to win but made bogey and then missed from 12 inches to lose a play-off with Jean Francois Lucquin.
He confessed: “After that third shot on 18 today it was Switzerland all over again. But I composed myself and hit a great trap shot and knocked the putt in, which was so nice to do.
“Standing over the putt, I said to myself: ‘This is just for par. That's all it is.’ And I was able to put a good stroke on it and knock it in the back of the hole. It is a monkey off my back.
“I have got that first win now so hopefully it is onwards and upwards from here. It’s a wire to wire victory. If I have a few more of those in my career I will be very happy."
McIlroy dedicated his first victory to his parents Rosemary and Gerry, who worked long hours to support his golfing career.
Rory said: "They have been absolutely fantastic and this win is definitely for them. They have done so much for me and it is nice to be able to repay them in some way.”