Sport Golf

Sunday 23 July 2017

McGinley and Clarke fear expectations on Rory may prove harmful

Bernie McGuire, in Versailles

PAUL McGINLEY and Darren Clarke fear the burden of expectation placed on Rory McIlroy's shoulders might do him no favours at the British Open in a fortnight's time.

A surprising number of his fellow professionals have nominated McIlroy to succeed Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as golf's next megastar, while Padraig Harrington has been prominent among those suggesting the Holywood hotshot is the player most likely to beat the Golden Bear's record of 18 Majors.

If Graeme McDowell amusingly compares his young fellow Ulsterman to a BMW because "Rory's the ultimate driving machine", McGinley likened McIlroy's performance at the US Open to that of a Rolls Royce.

Yet he warned that the road ahead could be made more difficult for the Holywood hotshot if people don't keep their enthusiasm in check.

"Rory's a great talent and a smashing kid to boot," said the Dubliner. "But some of the hype's just way over the top.

"Give the kid a break! He's won three tournaments. One is a Major, which he won in Rolls Royce style, yet his career is a long way from where it could be considered anywhere near Tiger's.

premature

"It's just very premature to be placing that expectation on him, and no one knows that more than Rory," explained McGinley who returns to competitive action today at the French Open after missing last week's BMW International because of a family illness.

Clarke also is back in the fray after choosing not to go to Munich because he wanted to salute McIlroy's triumph in style.

As he's known McIlroy for 13 years, it was one celebration Clarke was determined not to miss:

"It was a pleasant and unexpected week off but it was all for a good reason," he said.

Like McGinley, Clarke thinks McIlroy has the mental strength to deal with people's expectations.

Yet he cautioned: "I'm not sure we should be labelling him the next Tiger or Jack. All we know is that he's just won his first Major in unbelievable fashion. That Rory's got masses of talent is obvious and, judging by the way he's handled himself so far, he'll be well able to cope.

"So I'm sure Rory will want to win many more Majors. Hopefully everybody's expectations won't burden him too much.

"Rory has good managers around him, while his parents are very smart. They'll ensure he keeps his feet firmly on the ground," Clarke continued, smiling: "But I know one thing, he doesn't need my advice."

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