Rory McIlroy is just two wins away from facing Tiger Woods in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
But the young Ulsterman is refusing to get ahead of himself as he prepares to take on the in-form Louis Oosthuizen in Wednesday’s opening round.
If the teenage prodigy can defeat his South African stablemate, he will face the winner of the match between Mike Weir and Hunter Mahan in the second round, with the winner of that match one going onto face Woods, should he negotiate his first two matches successfully.
Despite the prospect of a mouthwatering clash against one of his heroes, McIlroy is philosophical about the situation.
“Whatever happens, happens. We will just have to how it goes.” he said.
“Obviously it would be a dream come true for me to meet Tiger. For now though I have to focus on my first match, that is all I am thinking about at the minute.”
The 19 year-old Holywood star comes into the tournament with a wealth of match play experience at amateur level and is confident that the format this week will suit him.
“Most of the amateur golf I played growing up was match play. I played for Ireland in the European Championships and then again in the Home Internationals, it is a format that I have grown up with.
“I actually think it suits my game, I make a lot of birdies but I’m also able to throw in the odd double bogey here and there.” he added.
McIlroy arrived in Arizona earlier this week after spending several days working with the experts at the Titleist Performance Institute at Carlsbad, and he likes what he has seen of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club so far.
“I’ve had two good looks at the golf course now and I’m pleased with that. The course looks in great shape, but I don’t think I have ever seen greens like this.
“It’ll take a bit of getting used to, for a new course it is very firm indeed, but I think that the style of golf over here suits my game.
“I hit the ball quite high and I’m able to get the ball to stop pretty quickly” he said.
His appearance this week marks the start of a run of stateside tournaments for McIlroy, but he is keen not to burden himself with too heavy a workload while his career is still in its infancy.
“I’m going to play the Honda Classic next week and then Doral, but then I’m heading home for a couple of weeks. Then I plan to come back for the Shell Houston Open, US Masters and Hilton Head.
“I plan to miss the Wachovia Championship because if I played there it would mean five tournaments in a row, including the Players Championship, Irish Open, PGA at Wentworth and the European Open.
“That would mean I would be in the States for maybe 10 out of 13 weeks and that’s just a little too much, I would rather get home and chill out for a couple of weeks.”
This week is the first chance for the American press, some of whom have been cynical about the hype surrounding McIlroy, and public to see the Ulsterman at first hand as he takes his first steps as a professional.
At just 19 years of age adjusting to life as a touring player in an increasingly global sport is not something everyone could cope with, but McIlroy has enjoyed his first months on tour.
“It’s a lot different to playing amateur golf. You’re playing a lot more golf for starters, you’re maybe playing 30 to 35 weeks of the year.
“I had to get used to living out of a suitcase and being away from home for long periods of times." he said
"The good thing is that you’re hanging around people that are much older than you and that makes you grow up a lot faster."
Despite having to endure the stress and strain that his chosen profession brings he is still capable of relaxing and taking a step back from the game.
“Whenever I get home I take two or three weeks and just chill out and be a normal teenager again, although I come back and see friends struggling with exams and it makes me realise just how fortunate I am to be where I am right now”
With a showdown against Tiger well and truly within the realms of possibility for McIlroy, it could be the biggest week of his career to date, an opportunity he is relishing.
“ It is head-to-head. Match play really does get the juices going. I am really looking forward to this week.”
McIlroy vs Oosthuizen is Match 21 and is scheduled to begin at 5.46pm GTM on Wednesday.