From Brian Keogh in Miami
Latin hit men Sergio Garcia and Camilo Villegas have warned Rory McIlroy to keep his feet on the ground as he takes America by storm.
The teen idol, 19, has been hailed by the likes of Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy as a man destined to take over from Tiger Woods as world No 1.
But young guns Garcia and Villegas are advising the Irish ace not to get sucked in by the hype and to stick to his flamboyant style ahead of this week’s WGC-CA Championship in latin-loving Miami.
Garcia said: “Comparisons with Tiger are very nice but they can distract you. Rory is a really great player and everyone is looking forward to seeing how he develops.
“It is never easy but I think Rory is a kid who has got his head screwed on and knows what he is doing.
“He reminds me of myself around 10 or 12 years ago. I was around the same age he is now and played golf the same way - loose and without fear.
“The truth is that he is a really great player as we all know. And he is also a really nice kid so I am just delighted that things are working out so well for him.
“But it is important to start well and build up confidence on the tour and things will be easier afterwards for him after that. He just has to keep his head down and keep on doing what he is doing and not pay attention to the comparisons with Tiger.”
Colombian star Villegas is another man who knows what it’s like to be hyped up as the next Tiger Woods.
And he believes that McIlroy must ignore the media circus surrounding him and make his own goals.
Villegas said: “I’ve seen him on television and seen his results and he is a quality player. But it is never easy to get started and he has to make sure he is well balanced going forward.
“Being compared to Tiger is nice but he shouldn’t let it change the way he plays golf, his goals or his dreams.
“Every new young player who comes out gets compared to Tiger so you just have to block your ears, set your own goals and work hard to make them a reality.”
McIlroy was followed by a large groups of fans as he played a practice round yesterday.
One shouted: “Hey Rory, do me a favour. Go get Tiger this week.”
But McIlroy knows that he will never be Woods and has no intention of trying to compare himself to a man with 14 major titles.
He said: “I hear the Tiger talk but that’s all it is. It is just something people are saying. I don’t think I am going to do what Tiger has done in his career.
“Anything is possible but I really don’t think I will. Hopefully I can just do well and if I can win a few majors up the road it will be great.”
The teenager is not a massive fan of the Blue Monster course at Doral but hopes he can continue his hot run of form after two big weeks on the PGA Tour.
He said: “Two weeks ago I wasn’t really known in America. Now a lot of people recognise me and it’s cool. But I can’t worry about what Tiger does.
“At the end of the day he is just getting the ball around the golf course the same as me and we’re playing the same game. If he shoots four 67s, I’ll try and shoot three 67s and a 66 to beat it. That’s all I can do.”
From Brian Keogh in Miami