TEENAGE prodigy Ryan Ruffels is refusing to rule out a fairytale run at Australian Open golf glory after upstaging Irish superstar Rory McIlroy during an eye-popping practice round at Royal Sydney.
The 15-year-old son of three-time Australian Open tennis semi-finalist Ray Ruffels, the youngest player in the Open field drained six birdies in a 12-hole round with McIlroy on Tuesday.
"It was a bit intimidating at the start, playing with such a good player," Ruffels said.
"But I started to relax a bit and I actually started to hit it really well towards the end.
"I feel like if I can keep this going, I can get up there this week and hopefully mix it with him."
As he did while playing alongside Adam Scott in the pro-am before last week's World Cup at Royal Melbourne, Ruffels sponged every ounce of knowledge he could from McIlroy and walked away feeling like he's on his way to becoming a pro golfer.
"They can hit it a lot further than me," Ruffels said. "I can keep up with him with short irons, chipping and putting.
"I think I putt just as good as almost all of them. But with golf, it's how good your bad shots are. At the moment, their bad shots are a little bit better than mine.
"When I hit a good shot, and Rory hits a good shot, they're pretty similar."
Playing the Open as an amateur invitee, Ruffels was chuffed that McIlroy passed on his phone number after their round.
"It looks pretty good when you're scrolling down the Ms in your phone and you see 'Rory McIlroy'," he said.
"He said, 'you're like me, just nine years younger', which is pretty cool. I wouldn't mind being like him."
Ruffels' younger sister Gabriela is among Australia's top-ranked 13-year-old girls' tennis players.
But despite being a talented tennis player himself, and once harbouring dreams of winning Wimbledon, Ruffels can pinpoint the day five years ago he decided to pursue a pro golf career instead.
"I played a tennis tournament in the morning and lost pretty comfortably - I think 6-0 6-0 or something like that," he said.
"Then mum signed me up for my first golf tournament in the afternoon and I shot a one-under and came second."
Aaron Baddeley won the Australian Open at Royal Sydney as a teenaged amateur in 1999 and Ruffels says anything's possible on his Australian Open debut from Thursday.
"I don't really like to set performance goals," he said.
"If I'm not hitting it great, making the cut might be a good result.
"If I'm hitting it really good, and sinking a few putts, I can try and get myself up in contention.
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