Darren Clarke believes Rory McIlroy has a Masters in his sights, even if a Green Jacket does not come his way next month at Augusta National.
Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, who will rely on the world number to anchor his side in defence of their title against the United States at Hazeltine National in September 2016, believes the golfer he met as a pre-teenage kid through his foundation has the game to conquer the classic Alister MacKenzie layout in Augusta and has a great chance of winning when the tournament gets under way in 16 days.
“I think he knows he’ll win there someday if he just keeps doing what he is doing,” Clarke said during his first official media briefing as Ryder Cup captain in London’s Heathrow Airport yesterday.
“With all due respect, it’s (the media) who are building up the hype and rightly so. He has to win sometime.
“Kids like Rory don’t come along too often. To have as talented a kid and as good a kid as Rory is, is great. He’s world number one but he’s much more comfortable with it now. The last time (2012) he didn’t seem that comfortable in it. He came through the foundation and then supported me for the Ryder Cup captaincy, he’s a great kid, a very special young man. He has a great sense of responsibility for the game.
“Rory had that something special about when he first came to my foundation as a young kid. He was different. And he still is.
“If he doesn’t win at Augusta this year, he’ll win next year. If he doesn’t win next year, he’ll win the year after. He’s going to win there some time. His game is perfect for there. It’s only a question of when. He’s that good.
“He’ll have a great chance next month. It’s suited perfectly for him, that high draw when his swing is on is just perfect around there. He’s got the shots, he’s got the touch, he flights it whatever way he wants, he’s got those soaring, high long irons that Tiger would hit in his prime.”
Clarke also hinted he may ask Los Angeles Galaxy-bound Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to address his team in the manner that Alex Ferguson did at Gleneagles on the eve of the contest, eventually won 16½ to 11½.
Liverpool fanatic Clarke said of Gerrard: “He is a real legend. If I were to do something like that, he would be someone I would consider.”
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