Rivals fearful of Rory McIlroy’s relentless drive

From demolishing the field at Quail Hollow to wowing crowds during a London store appearance, there has been little in the last 72 hours to suggest Rory McIlroy is anything other than the master of all he surveys.

The world No. 1’s reception from his fans in the West End flagship store of his sponsors on Monday night was proof positive of McIlroy’s star power, 24 hours on from his dominant victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina.

The seven-shot PGA Tour win, featuring that third-round 61 on Saturday, was his second in three starts having collected the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play title at the start of the month and was evidence enough that the 26-year-old Irishman is currently mining yet another one of these rich seams of form that make him nigh on impossible to beat.

Now back in his home continent, McIlroy threatens to be just as dismissive of European Tour fields as he has been in the United States of late.

Tomorrow morning he begins the defence of the title he won 12 months ago, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, a tournament which proved to be the catalyst for the Holywood star to launch his career into a different stratosphere in the game of golf.

It was on the West Course, days after calling off his wedding to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, that a terrible 16 months of golf was finally put to bed as he reined in a seven shot deficit behind 54-hole leader Thomas Bjorn to win by a stroke from compatriot Shane Lowry. That set in train a remarkable summer which saw McIlroy complete the third leg of a career Grand Slam of Majors by winning The Open at Hoylake before winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then the PGA Championship title at Valhalla in consecutive starts.

His double success this month points to another great run, with one bookmaker offering odds of 8/1 that the four-time Major champion can win both this week and next week’s Irish Open.

Former world No. 1 Luke Donald, third behind McIlroy at Wentworth last year, will have two shots at upsetting those odds as the Englishman attempts to repeat his 2011 and 2012 victories here and then makes a rare appearance in Ireland at Royal County Down. Yet he admitted yesterday that competing with McIlroy in this form is daunting.

“That’s tough,” Donald said. “He obviously dominated the field there (in Quail Hollow), dominated it off the tee. His results here, other than last year, haven’t been that great so hopefully I have more of a chance on a course like this than I would on a course like last week. But certainly, when he’s playing well and firing all cylinders, he’s very, very tough to beat.”

Germany’s Martin Kaymer was one of the few to interrupt McIlroy’s march to greatness last summer when he ran away with the US Open at Pinehurst.

Kaymer, another former world No. 1, will also be playing Royal County Down next week shared Donald’s sentiments but said it was up the rest of the field to meet the challenge.

“The last 18 months is outstanding,” Kaymer said of the Irishman. “And for some players, it’s very difficult to keep going when you are six, seven, eight under par, and you could see when he played in Charlotte last week when he missed the birdie putt on 17 (in the third round), he was disappointed. A lot of people don’t understand it. But you want to shoot 59. You want to go as low as you can. The way he putted it was possible.

“If he keeps playing like this, it’s going to be very difficult to beat. Players that get on those runs where they feel like almost unbeatable, until the point where someone gives him a little bit of something to think about, maybe that person backs off a little bit. I’m not saying Rory does it, but it happened in the past.

“So I just think you need to give him something to think about.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox