Predicting the future of a professional golfer is always difficult.

Back in the mid-1990s, there was a great deal of conversation about a kid named Tiger Woods.

Critics gushed over him, tour pros were in awe of him, and all the while Woods found a way to live up to expectations. In the modern era, Woods has cemented himself as a golf legend having won 14 Major Championships. If he returns to his past form, or even the form he showed in the second round, Woods might win more than that.

But as many up-and-coming golfers have come and gone, few since Woods have caught the sport by storm like Rory McIlroy.

The 21-year-old has a strong chance to win the 2011 Masters on Sunday. The 2011 Masters' leader, McIlroy shot a 65 in the first round and a second-round 69, and finished Saturday with a 70, giving him a four-stroke advantage.

Like Woods, McIlroy might be wearing the green jacket at the tender age of 21.

I truly believe this is the next superstar that we have in golf, said former U.S. Open champion Andy North, during the first round. If he's not the number one in the world in a couple of years, I would be shocked.

Currently, the Northern Irishman is ranked ninth in the world. He has already had great showings in the past two years in Major Championships, placing in a tie for third three times. McIlroy worst showing was tying for 20th at the 2010 Masters.

He will finish much better than that on Sunday.

Fellow players were singing his praises before the tournament started, and with the lights on him, he seems to have stepped up his game.

Indeed, nobody is disputing his talent. McIlroy already has one of the finest swings in golf.

From a personality standpoint, McIlroy has been consistently gracious and honest, and shows a great deal of maturity. Those are qualities that will serve him well with his impending fame.

If there is any criticism at all of McIlroy it's his short game, which seems a little like a work in progress. In the last few days, though, his short game has been unquestionably strong.

He recently insisted that a short game isn't needed to win tournaments, a lesson he learned over lunch with the most successful golf champion in the sports' history, Jack Nicklaus.

It is still very early in McIlroy's career, but one golf legend described the young golfer this way: He has all the components to be the best player in the world.

The golf legend who said that was Tiger Woods.