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Rory proves he can be true great

EVERY so often a golfing great emerges from the fairways and passes into our subconscious, leaving an indelible mark not just on the sporting world but on the human race in general.

Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods are as iconic as Elvis and the Beatles, and their mark on popular culture comes from a talent that only the greats themselves can dream of.

Now Rory McIlroy has taken a seat at that top table following in the footsteps from major winner to World Number One faster than all of them, except Tiger, of course.

Eleven months ago we watched in horror as the young Irish boy folded at the Masters, watching a four shot lead turn into a six shot loss on the most pressuring days in golf -- the final day at Augusta.

At one point, after McIlroy watched another drive screw hideously off course, the youngster cradled his head in his arm as the tears welled up.

Last night at the Honda Classic in Florida another pivotal moment came for Rory -- and this time he demonstrated just how far he has come since the Masters meltdown.

Tiger Woods hit what could be just about his greatest golf shot on an 18th hole, landing on the green from an impossible angle and distance off the fairway.

Across the course the unmistakable roar of the Tiger reached Rory, as the cries and applause of the crowd rolled over to the 14th -- next up for Rory was the famous Bear Trap -- three of the toughest holes in golf. As Rory stood on the 15th tee box it was clear he had been rattled by the late charge by Tiger -- the man whose autograph he hunted down a youngster only a few years ago.

Rory hit his drive over the water, but left and into the sand, with a ferociously difficult chip coming up.

Hit it too long and it was in the water, and hit it short he would still be in sand -- but Rory showed a maturity that has come following his US Open win and he landed it close to the pin, putting in for a par and to continue his journey to the top of the world.