Camilo Villegas, 27, Rory McIlroy, 20, and Anthony Kim, 24,in Miami.
Angus Murray
Monday, August 03, 2009

Almost as soon as Tiger Woods won his first major at the 1997 Masters, the question arose: Who will pull the sword from the stone and assume the role of Tiger's true rival?

We still don't know, but we have a hunch. With a mix of childlike wonder and furious focus, Anthony Kim led the U.S. to Ryder Cup victory last year (while whupping Sergio in singles) and has won at heavyweight courses Quail Hollow and Congressional, all before the age of 24.

Camilo Villegas — with his cocky manner and Spider-Man crouch — punctuated 2008 with back-to-back wins at the BMW and Tour Championships. The 27-year-old Colombian also boasts a sawed-off swing (and a Tiger-like stinger) that Johnny Miller calls "cool."

And there's something about Rory. The longest of the three, the poised-beyond-his-years McIlroy won the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic at 19, joining Kim and Villegas in the top 20 of the World Ranking and affirming what fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke has been saying for years: The kid's for real.

Youth is wasted on the young? No. Youth is about to lay waste to the world of professional golf.

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