The Irish pair know McIlroy’s game better than anyone on tour and also understand what it takes to compete at the highest level. Critics queued up to criticise Luke Donald and Lee Westwood’s crowning as world‘ number one’s top player because they hadn’t won a Major.
But McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mates have no doubt the reigning US Open champion is the real deal.
“He’s got the look of a world No 1 in that he has a big, spectacular game,” said Harrington. “He’s got a game that people think is a world No 1’s game and that’s why nobody is going to have any complaints about Rory being world No 1. I believe he takes a very balanced view to his golf. He doesn’t seem to be too obsessive about it.
“That says a long career and he is doing everything right. As I said a few years ago, there are very few players as good as him at his age out there winning tournaments.
“There are guys out there with potential but he has already delivered. And he keeps a really good balance in his golfing life. He doesn’t look to me like a guy who is going to burn out. So he could be here for a while.”
McIlroy has been hailed as the new Tiger Woods since he burst on the US scene in 2009 with a run to the quarter-finals of the Accenture Match Play. And Harrington sees no reason why they can’t be compared.
“Is it fair to compare him with Tiger? he said. “Why not? There are a lot of similarities between them. He’s won a Major at a very young age. He’s got the game. Yeah, I think you could compare him to Tiger no problem.”
Woods has won 14 Majors and needs five more to break Jack Nicklaus’ record haul. Yet Harrington sees no reason why McIlroy can’t continue to win Grand Slam titles for 20 years.
“I know he has a lot to do and there is no doubt that if Tiger’s 14 Majors is incredibly impressive, it just shows how impressive Jack’s record is.
“But if you are going to go on and win a lot of Majors, you have got to start winning them early.”
McDowell has no doubt that McIlroy is the top player on the planet right now and predicts huge things for his close friend.
“Irish golf has had an amazing run for six years,” he said. “That amazing run is only just beginning because Rory McIlroy is going to win multiple Majors and it’s exciting and Irish golf is going to be healthy for a long time to come.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen tee-to-green, period. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger early to mid-2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best player I’ve ever seen.
“A couple years ago, there was probably a little question mark about his putting from inside six feet. The work he did with Dave Stockton pre-Congressional last year has made a huge amount of difference. That was the missing link, because the rest of his game is all there.”