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RORY McILROY'S accomplishments this season have helped him join Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Seve Ballesteros among the pantheon of golfing greats, according to former European Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance.

Torrance, who was able to get a close-up view of the way the world number one operates when he worked as a deputy to victorious captain Paul McGinley in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles last month, said he was mesmerised by what he saw.

"Rory is as good as I've seen in a long, long time," said the 61-year-old Scot.


"He's got everything. Butch Harmon did an analysis of his swing and every single pinpoint part was in a perfect position," added Torrance, referring to one of the game's leading coaches.

"I don't think Rory can get much better and I fancy him to win any tournament he plays in.

"Every 10 or 20 years someone like him comes along.

"Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, these guys only come along every once in a while and Rory has now arrived and is here to stay."

McIlroy won this year's British Open and US PGA Championship, taking his total of major victories to four, and was an integral member of the European team that beat the US by 16ƒ points to 11ƒ at the Ryder Cup.

The 25-year-old Northern Irishman was the star of the show in the final-day singles, firing seven birdies and an eagle in a spectacular 14-hole burst to dispatch Rickie Fowler 5 & 4.

"His start on the Sunday, 3-3-3-3-3, to go five up on one of the young American lions was extraordinary," said Torrance.

"That's something Rory has got, the ability to turn it on. I watched him up close at Gleneagles and it was like something I've never seen before."

Nicolas Colsaerts came within one shot of becoming the first golfer to shoot a sub-60 round in the 42-year history of the European Tour during the opening round of the Portugal Masters at the Oceanico Victoria Golf Club yesterday.

The 31-year-old Belgian missed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole by millimetres. Colsaerts notched seven birdies in the opening 12 holes before eagling the 15th and 17th.


Colsaerts completed his round shortly before the day's play was abandoned when a torrential downpour flooded parts of the course.

His closest challengers were Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Frenchman Alexander Levy, who both signed for eight-under-par 63s.

McGinley, Europe's victorious Ryder Cup captain, continued to play on adrenaline and ended the first round in a tie for 18th after a tidy four-under-par 67.

The Dubliner was the best of the Irish with many of his compatriots still out on the course but of those who completed their rounds Kevin Phelan, Gareth Maybin and Shane Lowry finished with level-par rounds (71) while Simon Thornton shot a 76.