Major Debate - Rory or Matteo

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Rory McIlroy, 21, and Matteo Manassero, 18, already have multiple wins on either the PGA or European Tours. Rex Hoggard and Jay Coffin debate which rising star will be the first to hoist a major championship trophy.

By REX HOGGARD

As debates go, this one may end up caught in a “taste great, less filling” loop. Rory McIlroy will crack the Grand Slam ceiling before Matteo Manassero, but it will feel like the beginning of the conversation not the end.

Despite Manassero’s victory on Sunday in Asia, his second European Tour title at the tender age of 17, the Italian trails McIlroy in two key major championship categories.

At 21, the Northern Irishman has a wealth of major experience, both favorable and otherwise. He’s been in the Sunday hunt in four of the last six majors, has missed just two Grand Slam cuts in 10 attempts and he already has a mini-major on his resume (2010 Quail Hollow Championship).

McIlroy also fits the modern major champion prototype, crazy long off the tee with a 300-yard average in limited Tour events this year, compared to Manassero’s pedestrian 268-yard average.

Golf’s rules makers can wring their hands all they want, the modern professional game is about power and McIlroy has plenty of it. Manassero may “grow into” a longer game, but he’s not there yet.

No, McIlroy hoists Grand Slam glory first. Who wins the most majors in their careers? Now that’s another question.

By JAY COFFIN

Rory McIlroy is the easy answer, but Matteo Manassero is the correct answer. McIlroy has built up too much major championship scar tissue to win a major over the next couple years. Manassero has none.

Sure, McIlroy has more major experience but how much is it going to help him if there have been more disappointments than successes? He’s had three top-3 finishes at majors, but the 2010 PGA Championship was the only time he was seriously in contention in that trio of events.

Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter have not won majors, so why do so many assume that McIlroy is going to win at least a handful? Why do so many think that McIlroy will end up closer to Nick Faldo than he will Sergio Garcia?

McIlroy, 21, is a great player and hits the ball a long way but his short game is not particularly sharp in times of need.

Manassero, 18, is a great player who does not hit the ball a long way, but he knows how to get the ball in the hole, a trait that will serve him well in majors for the next two decades.

If lack of distance is the only downside for a teen that can easily find another 25 yards distance once his body fully develops, I’ll take it.