Rory McIlroy is the youngest player in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking to break into the magical top-50.

And world stars Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell admit that it won’t be long before they are looking anxiously in their rearview mirrors for the Holywood hotshot.

The Ulster genius, 19, is the only teenager inside the top 50 and one of just 14 players under 30 in that elite group alonside the likes of Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Justin Rose.

And if he keeps up his amazing start to his professional career, Ireland’s top two players know that McIlroy is heading right for the top of the world game.

After following McIlroy in Sunday’s play-off defeat in Hong Kong, fellow Ulsterman McDowell said: "Rory's a phenomenal talent and even though he lost out, it is not going to be too much longer before we see him lifting a trophy.

“I am going to be looking over my shoulder a lot more from the start of the New Year.” McDowell on McIlroy

"He is the complete package and is just so far ahead in the game then when I was 19 years of age. He's just an amazing young fellow and the way he carries himself is a credit to him.

“He was very disappointed to lose the play-off but the way he conducted himself displayed all the hallmarks of a champion.

"That speaks volumes for Rory an all I know is that I am going to be looking over my shoulder a lot more from the start of the New Year."

It’s taken McIlroy just 430 days and only 34 professional events to break into one of golf’s most exclusive clubs and make Harrington and McDowell look like slow-coaches in comparison.

McDowell, 29, is ranked 31st in the world but while it took him just over three years to establish himself in the world’s top 50, triple Major winner Harrington took even longer.

The Dubliner, now 37, was 28 when he crept into the world's top 50 after nearly four years on tour and 104 European Tour events.

But Ireland's triple Major winner has no doubt that McIlroy has the talent and maturity to shrug off the hype and go right to the very top to the game.

Asked how McIlroy would deal with the pressure and expectations heaped on his young shoulders, Harrington said: “He’s been dealing with it already. He’s the most experienced 19-year-old and the most capable 19-year-old to deal with those issues.

“It’s not easy. Expectations and pressures are the hardest things to deal with at such a young age but there’s no question, he’s well positioned for that.

“He’s well versed in dealing with the expectations of the media and the public. He’s been doing it since he was 13 so he’s probably got six years experience of it under his belt at this stage.

“He’s also a very nice young lad. He has managed to establish having confidence without the cockiness or arrogance which could go with that, which is a tremendous trait to have. That  will serve him very well going forward.

“Sometimes young people can have that confidence which makes people wait to seem them fall on their face but he doesn’t have arrogance at all.

“So everyone is behind him and wants to encourage him to achieve everything that he can in golf. He certainly can play and will get better and better with experience as time goes on.”

Speaking at the launch of the 2010 JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am last week, Harrington added: “Rory could be the headline star here in 2010.”

Yet Harrington was already tipping McIlroy for greatness when he made his Open Championship winning speech at Carnoustie last year.

After watching McIlroy grab the Silver Medal as the leading amateur, he said: "I'd like to congratulate Rory on his fine achievement. I'm glad I got in before he wins one. I am sure he will win a few Open Championships in the future. He is a fine talent and he proved it this week."

McIlroy is now Ireland’s third highest ranked player in the rankings ahead of 40-somethings like Darren Clarke (64th) and Paul McGinley (100th).

But he is also in a similar league to superstars like Tiger Woods and Garcia, who scorched right to the top of the game at an early age.

It took Garcia - winner of the 1999 Irish Open at 19 - just 11 weeks to make the top 100, 17 weeks to break into the top 50 and only 37 weeks to make the top 10.

Woods took just eight events to make the top 50 in the world and only 42 weeks to become world No 1.

McIlroy must finish the year inside the top 50 if he is to earn that precious invite for April’s Masters.

And while he just needs a couple of healthy finishes in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open next month to remain there, he’ll be gunning for a maiden tour victory that looks certain to arrive sooner rather than later.

Latest Irish positions in Official World Golf Ranking

  • 4 Padraig Harrington
  • 31 Graeme McDowell
  • 50 Rory McIlroy
  • 64 Darren Clarke
  • 100 Paul McGinley
  • 173 Peter Lawrie
  • 174 Damien McGrane
  • 192 Gareth Maybin
  • 404 Gary Murphy
  • 423 Michael Hoey
  • 452 Michael McGeady