Thursday 18 January 2018

Nicklaus adamant McIlroy is no 'one-hit wonder'


JACK NICKLAUS believes that Rory McIlroy will not prove to be a one-hit wonder following his stunning US Open success last month.

"Of course, there are huge expectations on him after what he did at Congressional," the 71-year-old said.

"Almost immediately there was talk that he would be the man to challenge my Majors record. Time will tell if he will become a multiple winner, but the one scenario I cannot imagine is that he will turn out to have been a one-hit wonder."

Nicklaus has seen all the young pretenders across five decades come and go. Does he think McIlroy has the game, the strength of character and the maturity to stick around for a while? Will he stand out from that crowd?

"He's already a good player, but I'm convinced he's going to become a really good player. I like his golf swing and I like his attitude. Does he have the potential to dominate? Yes, if he keeps his head screwed on properly, and he does the things he has to do to improve."

And Nicklaus also said it is too early to tell if McIlroy's decision to take a break from the game after his success was the right one.

"That's a long break," he says. "I understand that Rory has had a pretty hectic schedule, with TV and sponsors' engagements and visiting Wimbledon. The one thing I imagine he hasn't done much of lately is play golf. If he has a disappointing Open then I'm sure people will say it was too long. We'll find out soon enough if it has recharged his batteries or drained them. I always found that well-timed breaks from golf could be healthy for the mind and the game, but each golfer has to determine what's best for them.

"Rory isn't the first player to build his schedule and strategy around the Majors. Ben Hogan did it, Bobby Jones did it, I did it and Tiger Woods has done it.

"Personally, I never played well in a Major if I had played the week before. I preferred to do my preparation on-site and well in advance. Frequently, I'd go to the course two weeks early, play a practice round and then arrive on the Tuesday before the championship. Still, between the US Open and the Open Championship I always felt I needed something in the middle to keep my game in shape."

The top four players in the world rankings are European, and the past five Majors have eluded American players -- the longest streak since 1934. Is US golf in crisis?

"I wouldn't go that far," he says cautiously. "There are a lot of fine young players coming through. But it's pretty clear that Americans have to raise their games to match the Europeans. Too many American golfers know little beyond American golf and I'd like to see them travel more. I believe a big reason Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and I became the players we were is because we travelled the globe.

"If you want to be an international star then you have to go and play internationally. If you don't, you only have yourself to blame."

Even after establishing himself as the best player in the world, Nicklaus still had to win to earn the endorsements that made him his living. Today, a modest player on the US Tour can make two or three million dollars a year without ever putting his name on a trophy.

Nicklaus shrugs and says: "Are you playing golf to make a living or are you playing to be the best?" he asks. "Those are two very different things.

"It takes a lot of work to get to be in Tiger's position or Rory's position, and some players just don't want to do it. I can't fault that; it's their call, their life. But if they want to be the best, then they've got to approach things differently."

Speaking of Woods, Nicklaus is convinced that he will come back and that he will win, but not at the rate he once did.

"I'm probably the only person in golf who doesn't fret over the question of whether he'll beat my Majors' record or not," Nicklaus smiles. "But I certainly wouldn't want ill health to be a factor. He is doing what he needs to make a proper return to competitive golf and, like Tiger, we should exercise patience."

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