Christy O’Connor Jnr believes Rory McIlroy will ultimately enjoy more success over Rickie Fowler as golf’s next great rivalry takes shape in the coming years.
The Irish Ryder Cup legend watched American Fowler get the better of fellow 23-year-old McIlroy at Quail Hollow on Sunday to win his first PGA Tour event when he pipped the US Open champion and DA Points at the first play-off hole of the Wells Fargo Championship.
Speaking from Concra Wood Golf and Country Club in Co Monaghan, whose course he designed and which will host this July’s Kingspan Concra Wood Open on the PGA EuroPro Tour, O’Connor Jnr backed the Rickie and Rory show to keep fans entertained for years to come.
“I think so, I really believe so,” the 63-year-old two-time British Senior Open champion told the Irish Examiner yesterday. “They’re two great players and I’d have to give the benefit to Rory. I think he’s a much less mechanical player than Rickie. Rickie’s got his own shape and swing and does very well with it but for me, Rory is the full package. Rory’s set fair for major wins. It’s very hard to say which ones but he is certainly a major winner. I watched them on Sunday night and I thought it was magnificent, a great effort by both players.
“I think Rory played as good as he can play and but for missing those two putts on 17 and 18 would have been an outright winner. It’s a hell of an achievement after coming back with very little tournament play in the last six or seven weeks, to be able to stand up and just get beaten by Rickie.”
McIlroy will next month defend the US Open title he won at Congressional Golf Club for his first major but he fared less well at Royal St George’s last July where he finished the Open Championship seven over par, expressed his distaste for bad-weather golf and said he would not change his game in an effort to win a Claret Jug. O’Connor, however, disagreed that McIlroy did not have the game to win the Open.
“I don’t believe that and I don’t think he believes it either. He’s number one in the world and he’s got one of the greatest games out there. I believe he will win a British Open and maybe by a crazy amount of shots. The guy can do anything and shoot extremely low rounds on great golf courses so I don’t there’s anything beyond him.”
Among O’Connor’s accolades is also an Irish Open title, won in 1975 and the veteran golfer backed the tournament’s return to Royal Portrush next month as a very positive step.
“I’m delighted. It’s wonderful and a great golf course. It will bring our peoples together and most importantly it’s a great venue,” said O’Connor, who won the British Senior Open on Portrush’s Dunluce links in 1999 and followed it up the next year by winning at Royal County Down.
“We’ll have a great field and Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell have put in huge work in helping set up the golf course by promoting it around the world and I’m sure those guys will entice a lot of the great players around the world to come and play here.”
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