Rory has star quality for Ernie

From Brian Keogh in Dubai

Ernie Els is a huge admirer of Rory McIlroy, who was described in print by European Tour boss George O'Grady at the weekend as a potential "Irish Tiger Woods."

Yet if there is a player in world golf who is more than qualified to talk about what it takes to catch a Tiger, it is the South African.

The Big Easy has suffered more than his fair share of disappointments since Woods came on the scene. But as he unveiled his first course design in the Middle East yesterday and his plans for the new season, Els tried hard to build up the new generation of stars.

"A lot of guys in their late 20s and early 30s are certainly coming to the fore right now," said Els, who will make his 2008 debut in the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday after one of the longest winter breaks of his career.

"But Tiger still has the best mind in golf and he has no rival when it comes to his short game. Even if he makes mistakes, he has the ability to sink those mile long putts as we saw yesterday in winning the Buick."

But what of his ISM stablemate McIlroy, the 18 -year old sensation who has gabbed headlines all around the world since last year's Open at Carnoustie? Has he been impressed by what he's seen so far?

"I haven't had a chance to play with Rory yet," Els said. "But he's going to be a real star, isn't he?

"From what I have seen, he has a great swing and all the tools you need to be a really great player. He's certainly not afraid of anyone."

Woods is due to arrive in Dubai early today after racking up his 62nd PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines to draw level with the great Arnold Palmer in the list of all-time winners on the US tour.

And after watching TV coverage of Adam Scott's closing 61 to win the Qatar Masters on Sunday, Els suggested the young Australian is one of those young guns who is close to taking a pot-shot at Woods.

Before striking the opening drive at The Els Club at Dubai Sports City, Els let it be known that his decision to reduce his worldwide schedule this season is designed to help him end a five-year drought in the majors that dates to the 2002 Open at Muirfield.

He said: "I am playing here in Dubai and then playing in India. Then I will be Florida for four to five weeks running up to the US Masters and hopefully I will be on form by then.

"I have my schedule a little softer this year compared to other years so that I can concentrate more on the Majors. I will be spending more time at home in London with the kids and doing the school run."