Monday 20 November 2017

McIlroy makes an impression on big guns

Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images
Rory McIlroy. Photo: Getty Images

Rory McIlroy plays in Europe for the first time in seven months this week buoyed by messages of congratulations from three of the biggest names in golf.

The 21-year-old, a winner in America earlier this month, was at home when letters arrived on the same morning from Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Along with one from Seve Ballesteros, they are to be framed along with the 18th green flag from Quail Hollow - and then placed in his downstairs bathroom.

"When people go in they can see what I've done," said McIlroy to great laughter. "Not in that way!"

He has now travelled - by ferry and car because of volcanic ash cloud worries - to Wentworth for the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship starting tomorrow.

Knowing he has caught the attention of three players with 30 majors between them is a superb boost for a young man who hopes he will not have to wait long now for his first.

McIlroy had a sit-down chat with Nicklaus two months ago and the Golden Bear's letter made reference to that.

"I told you to be patient, but that was just outrageous," wrote Nicklaus after seeing the world number nine finish 66-62 to win by four after only just making the halfway cut.

McIlroy commented: "It was great. He also said 'I look forward to seeing you at the Memorial." That event at Nicklaus's Muirfield Village in Ohio is in two weeks' time.

Palmer's event is at Bay Hill in Florida every March and after receiving that letter McIlroy stated: "I'll have to play there.

"It's brilliant. It's fantastic to be able to spend time with men of their stature. I suppose I'm in a very privileged position to be able to do that.

"I really appreciate that they take an interest in my career and hopefully I can keep playing good golf and try and live up to the potential and the expectations.

"Seve came from a European perspective. He said 'It's great what you've done, especially to win in America so early'." Ballesteros was a few days younger when he had his first victory there in 1978.

"He talked a little bit about the Ryder Cup and about the European Tour and about how proud he was of all the young players coming through.

"It was a very, very touching letter. It's incredible - he's been going through a very difficult time (four brain operations) and hopefully we can see him at St Andrews at The Open.

"I know everyone wishes him a speedy recovery and we all hope he pulls through. To take the time out of his life to write me a nice letter like that was fantastic for me."

Ballesteros is hoping to take part not in The Open itself, but in the four-hole Champions Challenge on the eve of the event.

Press Association

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